04 June 2013

Agee & Evans ~ At It Again (Posthumously)

Yesterday evening I came across this story/review in The New York Times of a new edition of a hitherto unpublished piece by James Agee. The book* consists in the original piece or reportage Agee did on assignment for Fortune magazine. The piece never appeared there, but eventually became the text - accompanied by photographs by Walker Evans - of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. The new edition reproduces some of Evans's images too. While all this is interesting intellectually, it is especially nice for me to see that the editor of the book is John Summers, a former History PhD student here at Rochester. Actually John's adviser was my colleague Robb Westbrook who regularly sends really smart students like John my way. In any case, John wrote his thesis (an intellectual history of C. Wright Mills), taught Social Studies at Harvard for a half dozen years, published a collection of his own essays**, edited one by Mills*** and, inexplicably to me, had zero success in landing a permanent academic job.

I'd lost touch with John amidst the thankfully receding turmoil of my own life, but the story in The Times indicates that he has acquired, reorganized, and now is editing The Baffler You can find  interviews with John here and here explaining what they (the journal is something of a collective undertaking) are up to. This is the sort of publishing venture you should support - not just because it leans left, but because little magazines like The Baffler sustain a robust political, intellectual and cultural ecology - so subscribe if you can.
* James Agee. Cotton Tenants: Three Families. Photographs by Walker Evans. Edited by John Summers. Melville House 2013.
** John H. Summers. 2008. Every Fury on Earth. The Davies Group.
*** John H. Summers. 2008. The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills. Oxford University Press.

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