James Agee: A Life by Laurence Bergreen is a 467-page hardcover published in 1984 by E.P. Dutton, Inc., and is a stated first edition. The dust jacket has some chips and small tears and creases. Inside, the book is in very good condition.
James Agee (1905-1955), novelist, journalist, screenwriter, film critic, and poet, was one of the most talented and profligate men in the history of American letters. His 1941 study of sharecroppers, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, with photographs by Walker Evans, is one of the classic documents of the Depression. His best-selling novel A Death in the Family won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted for both stage and screen. His film reviews for Time and The Nation, later collected in Agee on Film, revolutionized movie criticism. His screenplay, The African Queen, became the basis of one of the most enduringly popular of all films (Agee was the prototype for Bogart's character).
In this, the first full-scale biography, Laurence Bergreen, bringing to light hundreds of unpublished letters and manuscripts, tells a story of ambition and passion that is as compelling as a novel, yet is based on painstaking research. We learn of Agee's idyllic Tennessee boyhood, the tragic early death of his father, his remarkable career at Exeter and Harvard, and his encounters with the powerful at Time, Inc.
Bergreen compassionately but remorselessly traces the course of Agee's three marriages and numerous affairs, often using actual dialogue recorded by Agee. His Agee is a writer torn by the conflicting demands of journalistic success and a more private muse, a man whose search for sexual liberation went hand in hand with an equally intense enslavement to alcohol. This is at once a story of promise fulfilled and talent lost in dissipation. The scenes range from the literary bohemia of Greenwich Village to the busy offices of Time at the height of its influence to a glittering Hollywood only dimly awakening to its own artistry, but at the center is Agee himself--elusive, extravagant, a writer whose legend began forming even before his death. This is a biography rich in incident and implication, a long-awaited literary event.