A collection of letters from Agee to his lifelong friend, Father Flye. At the very least, reading this collection provides an excellent roadmap of book recommendations, as Agee let fly with what opinions swirled in his head about books, movies, poems he was reading/writing. The collection is one-sided, all from Agee, all becoming quite tiresome in their plaintive wail of apology about not having enough time to write and not being clever enough, feeling dull/dead… it made me yearn to see what was on the opposite side of the correspondence, what magic Father Flye was weaving to have Agee prostrate and begging for forgiveness letter after letter (tedious!). His magazine work spilled over into letters, the takedown in Fortune of people who worship orchids for being “the Largest, the Loudest, the Most Expensive, the most supercharged with Eroticism, Glamor, Prestige…” Topic ranged from philosophy to current events (Huey Long’s assassination netting some commentary about organizing a group of men to trail “the 300 key sonofabitches of the earth… and exactly a year from then, at just the same hour all over the world, to ring up the assassinations”) to musical recommendations (“Mitchell’s Christian Singers… the greatest singers of spirituals I’ve ever heard recorded”) and book recommendations (too many to count, but I want to check out Eckermann’s Conversations with Goethe). His comments about being weary of Stoicism because it is often blended with self-pity, “a sort of self-pity with its fly open.”
I enjoyed his snub on psychiatry:
I would somewhere near as soon die (or enter a narcotic world) as undergo full psychoanalysis. I don’t trust anyone on earth that much; and I see in every psychoanalyzed face a look of deep spiritual humiliation or defeat; to which I prefer at least a painful degree of spiritual pain and sickness. The look of “I am a man who finally could not call his soul his own, but yielded it to another…”
Discovered while reading Dwight Macdonald’s magnificent thoughts on Agee and other writers.