James Rufus Agee (AY-jee) was less successful as a creator of fiction than he was as a recorder of experiences. The event that marked a turning point in his early life was the death of his father, Hugh James Agee, in an automobile crash when Rufus, as his family called him, was six. The victim’s widow, Laura Tyler Agee, a self-righteous woman who came from a refined Knoxville family, undoubtedly repeated the details of the tragedy so often that her son and daughter, Emma, knew the story by heart. The young Agee enshrined the gruesome details in his memory, and they eventually became the basis for his celebrated novel, A Death in the Family.
Three years after her husband’s death, Laura Agee, a devout...
(The entire section is 699 words.)