Walker Evans's indelible 1936 images (left to right): the Crossroads general store, Alabama; sharecropper Floyd Burroughs; Allie Mae Burroughs
Perhaps it was meant to be. For out of that failed assignment emerged five years later Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a nearly 500-page meditation on poverty, injustice, and the mysteries of the universe. The book sold only a handful of copies in Agee's lifetime, and was long out of print when its author -- a chain smoker, a hard drinker, and a suffering soul -- died in a New York City taxi in 1955 at the age of 45. Only after Agee's posthumously published novel, A Death in the Family, won the Pulitzer Prize did Famous Men find an audience, and ultimately its place in the American literary canon.
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