Nathaniel Popkin at Fanzine:
Here in these letters Agee is skinned, here he is bruised, here he is fresh, romantic, frustrated, idealistic, thoughtful, perceptive, fatalistic, honest, loyal, shameful, rational, destructive, skeptical, and honest. He’s wanting, grasping, rationalizing, grieving, pitying, singing, in love with the nature of things, and always, it seems, spent for time and focus and money. The letters begin in 1925, when Agee is 16, rejecting insincerity, and attending Exeter and continue rather steadily as he moves on to Harvard and then to New York to become a writer. Of this possibility, he writes to Father Flye from Cambridge in 1930, “I’d do anything on earth to become a really great writer…devise a poetic diction that will cover the whole range of events as perfectly and evenly as skin covers every organ…”
Despair comes naturally next, as night follows day, and just as relentlessly, to every writer of such erupting ambition. In Agee’s first letter from New York he mentions suicide; his own mortality patters the pages of the next 23 years’ of letters, stippling ink that grows, by the mid-1940s into a puddle: Agee is killing himself with alcohol and cigarettes.