Friday, May 27, 2011

Suppose it were Friday ii

All my people are larger bodies than mine, quiet, with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of night.

May god bless my people .. oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.

After a little while I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me into her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.

James Agee
Knoxville: Summer 1915
op. cit.

     James Agee grew up in a lower-middle class family in eastern Tennessee in the early years of the previous century. At a very young age, his father died in an automobile, as he would in his 40s. He was sent to be educated by an Episcopal priest, who encouraged him to attend the Philips Academy at Exeter. He then went on to Harvard College and his subsequent life is rather well known. One keeps coming back to the vanishing improbability of the migration from Tennessee to New Hampshire, even as we all understand the pitfalls of ascribing too much to institutional associations. 

Whether the Agee we know endured that instruction or prospered there, we do know two things: Exeter is proud to claim him; and why that should be. Reading in Agee is something one finds oneself do-ing occasionally, here, because they are still learning dance on the steps of the museum in Minneapolis, and climbing rock somewhere, un-known. Without irony, they are falling in love again; can't help it.


  1. I always keep coming back to him.

    And my book, to be self-published, with an introduction by Luc Sante, is inspired by one of his books as I have called my book of photos of a Times Square that is no longer, "Famous People, Famous Place."

  2. Bruce! I am completely bouleversé with joy to be, I suppose, the last to discover this pending publication, and of course I wish you riotously well with it. Santé is a superlative communicator on defunct places and cultures in New York, and I admire your choice of him. But this is a great event, and I wish this evening to convey a more intimate message to this blog's readers, who are fortunate to have your company - and you, theirs! :)

  3. to Bruce, you are planning i hope a great cyber fanfare for this book I hope. Laurent- I confess to little knowledge of James Agee, surely Knoxville is proud to claim him too-as they are in a bubbble separated from TN-floating somewhere that loftier ideals dwell- I will never tempt or attempt rock climbing but maybe Agee-I will. pgt

  4. A dear friend of mine, who surely does not read this page, is from Knoxville and sees it at the core of his "beloved South." One learns how magically the region, like the quilt in Agee, solaces its natives. But then you know this.