Cotton Tenants by James Agee, Walker Evans, John Summers & Adam Haslett
Three Families

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"Cotton Tenants" is certainly an interesting historical artifact and provides a fuller picture of Agee and his thought process during the Depression. But it's a journalistic failure...
-WSJ online

Synopsis

A re-discovered masterpiece of reporting by a literary icon and a celebrated photographer

In 1941, James Agee and Walker Evans published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a 400-page prose symphony about three tenant farming families in Hale County, Alabama, at the height of the Great Depression. The book shattered journalistic and literary conventions. Critic Lionel Trilling called it the “most realistic and most important moral effort of our American generation.” 

The origins of Agee and Evans’s famous collaboration date back to an assignment for Fortune magazine, which sent them to Alabama in the summer of 1936 to report a story that was never published. Some have assumed that Fortune’s editors shelved the story because of the unconventional style that marked Famous Men, and for years the original report was presumed lost.

But fifty years after Agee’s death, a trove of his manuscripts turned out to include a typescript labeled “Cotton Tenants.” Once examined, the pages made it clear that Agee had in fact written a masterly, 30,000-word report for Fortune.

Published here for the first time, and accompanied by thirty of Walker Evans’s historic photos, Cotton Tenants is an eloquent report of three families struggling through desperate times. Indeed, Agee’s dispatch remains relevant as one of the most honest explorations of poverty in America ever attempted and as a foundational document of long-form reporting. As the novelist Adam Haslett writes in an introduction, it is “a poet’s brief for the prosecution of economic and social injustice.”
 

About James Agee, Walker Evans, John Summers & Adam Haslett

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JAMES AGEE (1909–s the author of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the renowned study of Alabama sharecroppers during the Depression. Born in Tennessee, he died two years before the publication of A Death in the Family, his best-known work. STEVE EARLE is an American singer-songwriter, political activist, and author of the short story collection Doghouse Roses. Born in Virginia, he lives with his wife in New York City.
 
Published June 4, 2013 by Melville House. 224 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Cotton Tenants
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jun 10 2013

To readers unfamiliar, this will be an unexpected pleasure. It is the minute detail of the work that brings Depression-era Alabama to life...

Read Full Review of Cotton Tenants: Three Families | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Cameron Mcwhirter on Jun 28 2013

"Cotton Tenants" is certainly an interesting historical artifact and provides a fuller picture of Agee and his thought process during the Depression. But it's a journalistic failure...

Read Full Review of Cotton Tenants: Three Families | See more reviews from WSJ online

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