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James Agee Photograph by Walker Evans, 1937. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103100).


Agee, James Rufus (27 November 1909–16 May 1955), writer, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Hugh James Agee, a construction company employee, and Laura Whitman Tyler. The father’s family were poorly educated mountain farmers, while the mother’s were solidly middle class. Agee was profoundly affected by his father’s death in a car accident in 1916. He idealized his absent father and struggled against his mother and her genteel and (he felt) cold values. “Agee’s mother wanted him to be clean, chaste, and sober,” the photographer ...


Macdonald, Dwight (24 March 1906–19 December 1982), critic and editor, was born in New York City, the son of Dwight Macdonald, an attorney, and Alice Hedges, the daughter of a successful Brooklyn merchant. Though his family was primarily middle class, Macdonald attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University, from which he graduated in 1928 with a B.A. degree. The circumstances of Macdonald’s family were reduced in 1926 when his father died, but the new monthly magazine ...


Sherwood, Robert Emmet (04 April 1896–14 November 1955), writer, editor, and critic, was born in New Rochelle, New York, the son of Arthur Murray Sherwood, a stockbroker and member of the New York Stock Exchange, and Rosina Emmet, an artist and illustrator. He was named for an ancestor, Robert Emmet, the Irish patriot. When Sherwood was one year old, the family moved to New York City. After 1906, summers were spent at Skene Wood, in Westport, New York, on Lake Champlain, “the most beautiful place in the world.” Sherwood’s writing career began at age seven, when he edited a hand-printed magazine called ...