James Agee 80 Years On

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James Agee 80 Years On

Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books Christopher Knapp has a good read about James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; but don’t forget Agee’s original assignment of reporting on Depression-era sharecroppers Cotton Tenants (1936). For someone who’s had an artery in his hand cut open from Johnsongrass (what used to be called Russian thistle), as well as least one great-grandfather who was a sharecropper, Cotton Tenants makes for one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read in a while:

Johnsongrass, it takes hell and scissors to control. You can’t control it in the drill (the row) with your plowing. If you just cut it off with the hoe, it is high as your thumb by the next morning. The best you can do is dig up the root with the corner of your hoe, and that doesn’t hold it back any too well. (Cotton Tenants: Three Families. Brooklyn: Melville House. [1936.] 2013. p. 135)


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