James Agee's literary reputation has grown enormously since his death in 1955. He wrote novels, short stories, poetry, film criticism, screenplays, and investigative journalism, but these accomplishments earned him only a modest public reputation during his brief life. Ironically, Agee's greatest recognition as a writer came posthumously, when his novel A Death in the Family won the Pulitzer Prize. In James Agee and the Legend of Himself, Alan Spiegel examines these accomplishments and treats Agee not simply as a celebrity, journalist, or "Depression" writer but as a self-interrogating literary artist who created a homemade legend from his earliest family memories, sifting his experience through an automythology composed of his mother, his father, and himself.
Alan Spiegel is a member of the English faculty and Director of the Graduate Humanities Program at the State University of New York in Buffalo. He is the author of Fiction and the Camera Eye: Visual Consciousness in Film and the Modern Novel.