Books: Experiment in Communication

LET Us Now PRAISE FAMOUS MEN—James Agee & Walker Evans— Houghton Mifflin ($3.50).

As a book, this is the most distinguished failure of the season. Its author willed it so. "This is a book only by necessity," he remarks, in a preface devoted largely to alienating the reader; "it is intended, among other things, as a swindle, an insult, and a corrective."

But it is also an experiment in communication: "an attempt to reproduce and analyze the actual." Its medium: 32 photographs by Walker Evans and a 471-page commentary by James Agee. Subject: the life of three Alabama cotton tenant families, with whom...

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