Novelist Adam Haslett and John Summers, editior-in-chief of The Baffler, talk about a re-discovered masterpiece of reporting by James Agee and celebrated photographer Walker Evans, Cotton Tenants: Three Families. In 1941, James Agee and Walker Evans published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, about three tenant farming families in Hale County, Alabama, at the height of the Great Depression. They originally traveled there on assignment for Fortune magazine in 1936, but a story that was never published. Fifty years after Agee’s death, his report “Cotton Tenants” was discovered. Published for the first time, it includes 30 of Walker Evans’s historic photos.
John Summers, the editor of The Baffler, discusses the American critic and writer Dwight Macdonald, an uncompromising contrarian, a passionate polemicist, an anarchist, and a pacifist. Summers assembled new selection of Macdonald’s finest essays, Masscult and Midcult Essays Against the American Grain. It shows Dwight Macdonald as a critic of America’s susceptibility to cultural fakery—he dubbed this phenomenon “Midcult” and he attacked it on aesthetic and on political grounds.