Friday, May 23, 2003

After the Riots

Although I haven't read all the way through my new issue, I'm willing to bet that the best thing, hands-down, in Harper's this month is the reprint of James Agee's WWII-era essay "After the Riots." I just PDF'd it and e-mailed it to Kriston so I read through it again, and again it floored me. It's a remarkable depiction of racial conflict, guilt, and responsibility, but the truly stunning thing about the essay is the way Agee portrays the humanity of the people populating his story. I won't give it away, but he writes with great sympathy for people who could easily be depicted as mindless bigots. Or see how he perfectly expresses the agonizing discomfort of the black gentleman on the bus with a few quick phrases. What I get from this is an overwhelming sense of kinship that this writer shares with both the fallen and the saved. I saw it in the only other work of his I've read, A Death in the Family, and I'm pleased to see it's not a fluke. Anyway, if anyone wants me to e-mail you a copy, lemme know. (I probably shouldn't publish my work e-mail, so just send any requests to the rusty old college account that I use for back up and spam: s-smith at mail dot utexas dot edu. I'll check it.)


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