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Next Up: A Death In The Family

Well, this one sounds like another real pick-me-up.

The title says it all. And we’re not talking about a third cousin or distant aunt in the family. We’re talking about a young 36-year-old father with two children and a young wife.

That’s not a spoiler. It’s the premise of the entire novel–and the event around which all the other events in the story orbit.

So what of A Death In The Family and its author, James Agee? Some quick facts:

  • A Death In The Family is an autobiographical novel detailing Agee’s experience losing his father as a child.
  • Agee began writing the novel in 1948, but it wasn’t finished when he died in 1955. It was posthumously released by editor David McDowell in 1957.
  • Agee subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the novel in 1958.
  • In 2007, Michael Lofora, a professor at the University of Tennessee, published a second version of the novel, one that he said was more true to Agee’s intent. This is actually the one that I’ll be reading.
  • Steve Earle, the country folk singer who was also in The Wire, writes the introduction to the novel. Kind of unusual.
  • The movie, All The Way Home, was released in 1963 and was based on the novel.
  • James Agee was one interesting dude. He sadly died at the age of 45, in 1955, after suffering his second heart attack. More to come about Agee in the coming weeks.

As depressing as this book sounds, I’m excited about reading it. And I’m even more excited about digging into the life of James Agee, who grew up just a few hours away from me in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Any thoughts on A Death In The Family?

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m curious to see what makes it so great, as many kids lose their parents young. Also, I’m intrigued because I love people from Tennessee. I lived there for a few months, it was my first state I lived in in the South, and I liked it far better than Georgia or N. Carolina.

    Like

    July 18, 2013
  2. Teresa #

    I’ve been waiting for you to read this one. I don’t understand why it’s on the list, but I may be missing something.

    Like

    July 18, 2013
    • Nothing special about it?

      Like

      July 18, 2013
      • Teresa #

        Hmm. Gorgeous writing in the beginning of the book.

        I have strong feelings about this one, but I’m not sure if it’s just me. So I’ll stay mum about the rest of it for now.

        Like

        July 18, 2013
  3. I lost my mother at an early age, so I’m intrigued and will put this on my list. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it. Thanks for providing the background info.

    Like

    July 18, 2013
  4. This book comes highly recommended by various writers I just met at the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. I have a short story with a child narrator that I’m working on, and one faculty member suggested I take a look at this story to understand Agee’s technique. Apparently, he uses dual narrative structure. So I plan to read it while I’m on travel these next few weeks.

    Like

    July 18, 2013
  5. I always find books released posthumously rather intriguing, especially those like A Death In The Family and the lesser known, Confederacy of Dunces, that have gone on to win major awards. There’s a kind of melancholy bittersweetness to an author being recognized when he has no idea of the impact of his work. Your pre-commentary makes me interested in checking this one out.

    Like

    July 18, 2013
  6. I’d like to read the two versions. Is it available on kindle? It’s very interesting how the two version ends.

    Like

    July 20, 2013

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