Brooklyn Is: Southeast of the Island: Travel Notes

Brooklyn Is: Southeast of the Island: Travel Notes

Preface by Jonathan Lethem
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 64
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  • Book Info
    Brooklyn Is: Southeast of the Island: Travel Notes
    Book Description:

    For the first time in book form-a great writer's classic celebration of the essence of Brooklyn.In 1939, James Agee was assigned to write an article on Brooklyn for a special issue of Fortune on New York City. The draft was rejected for creative differences,and remained unpublished until it appeared in Esquire in 1968 under the title Southeast of the Island: Travel Notes.Crossing the borough from the brownstone heights over the Brooklyn Bridge out through backstreet neighborhoods like Flatbush, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay that roll silently to the sea, Agee captured in 10,000 remarkable words, the essence of a place and its people. Propulsive, lyrical, jazzy, and tender, itspitch-perfect descriptions endure even as Brooklyn changes; Agee's essay is a New York classic. Resonant with the rhythms of Hart Crane, Walt Whitman, and Thomas Wolfe, it takes its place alongside Alfred Kazin's A Walker in the City as a great writer's love-song to Brooklyn and alongside E. B. White's Here Is New York as an essential statement of the place so many call home. James Agee was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1909. One of the great prose stylists of the past century, Agee wrote in many forms-poetry, short stories, novels, essays, commentary, and criticism. In 1958 he won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for A Death in the Family, and he also wrote the classic account of poor Southern farmers, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, accompanied by Walker Evans's documentary photographs. With John Huston, he wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for The African Queen, and he was an influential film and theater critic for Time and The Nation. James Agee died in 1955 of a heart attack in a New York City taxicab. In the fall of 2005, the Library of America will publish a two-volume collection of his writings. Jonathan Lethem's novels include Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, his most recent book is The Disappointment Artist. Lethem was born and raised in Brooklyn, where he still lives.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5022-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xi)
    Jonathan Lethem

    I WANT to try and sing back at James Agee’s astonishing song of Brooklyn, this astonishing secret text which like the heart of the borough itself throbs in raw shambolic splendor, never completely discovered, impossible to mistake. Agee is such a loving, explosive, and mournful singer; his prose aims the methods of Walt Whitman like a loving bullet toward the next century, brings that greatest singer of American identity smash up against the midcentury’s grubby, boundless polyglot accumulation of successive immigrant hordes, and predicts the outerborough songs to come, the ones that could only have been written by immigrant sons...

  4. Brooklyn Is: Southeast of the Island: Travel Notes
    (pp. 1-46)

    WATCHING THEM in the trolleys, or along the inexhaustible reduplications of the streets of their small tradings and their sleep, one comes to notice, even in the most urgently poor, a curious quality in the eyes and at the corners of the mouths, relative to what is seen on Manhattan Island: a kind of drugged softness or narcotic relaxation. The same look may be seen in monasteries and in the lawns of sanitariums, and there must have been some similar look among soldiers convalescent of shell shock in institutionalized British gardens where, in a late summer dusk, a young man...

    (pp. 47-50)
  6. Back Matter
    (pp. 51-51)