Letters To A Father Figure

The recently republished Letters of James Agee to Father Flye collects Agee’s lifelong correspondence with James Harold Flye, a priest two decades his senior whom he met at age 9. In a review, John Lingan finds that the letters come closer to revealing the fullness of Agee’s character than any of his other works:

[Agee is], in the manner of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, almost perversely attentive to his own shortcomings as a writer and a man. “I haven’t yet learned at all well how to use either time or myself,” he confesses while in the thick of writing that book, a few months before claiming, “I have a really dangerous and to me terrifying lack not only of discipline of thought and conduct but of any hold to take towards learning discipline.” The letters spill over with projects never seen through, dietary and health concerns, and Agee’s constant apologies for not corresponding sooner. … Flye and Agee sometimes went a decade or more without seeing each other in person; other than a few years of close contact in childhood, Agee’s relationship to this man was forged in words and in thought, not by close knowledge of each other’s daily lives.