Knoxville Literature Shelf

Do you have any idea how many connections Knoxville has to the world of literature? Maybe you've heard of James Agee, or Cormac McCarthy, but the list goes way beyond them. Writers like: Frances Hodgson Burnett, Alex Haley, Joyce Carol Thomas, Lowell Cunningham, Jefferson Bass (the team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson), David Hunter, and many more.

James Agee was an American author, journalist, poet, screenwriter and film critic. In the 1940s, he was one of the most influential film critics in the U.S. His autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957), won the author a posthumous 1958 Pulitzer Prize. James Agee was born in Knoxville in what is now the Fort Sanders neighborhood. James Agee bookshelf

Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright whose ten novels span Southern Gothic, Western, and Post-apocalyptic genres. He won a Pulitzer Prize for The Road and the film adaption of No Country for Old Men won four Academy Awards. McCarthy's family moved to Knoxville when he was four. They started out in Sequoyah Hills but later moved to Martin Mill Pike in South Knoxville. Cormac McCarthy bookshelf

Frances Hodgson Burnett was an English playwright and author best known for her children's stories, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Although born in England, after her father died the family emigrated to the United States, settling near Knoxville, Tennessee. At first they were in a log cabin in New Market, but she earned enough from her writing to move the family to a better home in Knoxville. Frances Hodgson Burnett bookshelf

Although born in Franklin, it was while in college in Knoville that Lowell Cunningham first got interested in UFO folklore--based on a comment a friend made while driving through Fort Sanders. The result was his comic book series Men in Black and a Hollywood franchise starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

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James Agee bookshelf

A Death in the Family by James Agee
The most widely read of works by James Agee. Published in 1957, two years after its author's death at the age of forty-five, A Death in the Family remains a near-perfect work of art, an autobiographical novel that contains one of the most evocative depictions of loss and grief ever written. As Jay Follet hurries back to his home in Knoxville, Tennessee, he is killed in a car accident--a tragedy that destroys not only a life, but also the domestic happiness and contentment of a young family. A novel of great courage, lyric force, and powerful emotion, A Death in the Family is a masterpiece of American literature.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men : Three Tenant Families by James Agee, Walker Evans (Photographer)
In the summer of 1936, James Agee and Walker Evans set out on assignment for Fortune magazine to explore the daily lives of sharecroppers in the South. Their journey would prove an extraordinary collaboration and a watershed literary event when, in 1941, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was first published to enormous critical acclaim. This unsparing record of place, of the people who shaped the land and the rhythm of their lives, is intensely moving and unrelentingly honest, and todayŚrecognized by the New York Public Library as one of the most influential books of the twentieth centuryŚit stands as a poetic tract of its time. With an elegant new design as well as a sixty-four-page photographic prologue featuring archival reproductions of Evans's classic images, this historic edition offers readers a window into a remarkable slice of American history.

Cormac McCarthy bookshelf

The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy
This first novel is set in a small, remote community in rural Tennessee in the years between the two world wars, it tells of John Wesley Rattner, a young boy, and Marion Sylder, an outlaw and bootlegger who, unbeknownst to either of them, has killed the boy's father. Together with Rattner's Uncle Ather, who belongs to a former age in his communion with nature and his stoic independence, they enact a drama that seems born of the land itself. All three are heroes of an intense and compelling celebration of values lost to time and industrialization.

Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
Suttree is the story of Cornelius Suttree, who has forsaken a life of privilege with his prominent family to live in a dilapidated houseboat on the Tennessee River near Knoxville. Remaining on the margins of the outcast community there--a brilliantly imagined collection of eccentrics, criminals, and squatters--he rises above the physical and human squalor with detachment, humor, and dignity.

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
In this taut, chilling novel, Lester Ballard--a violent, dispossessed man falsely accused of rape--haunts the hill country of East Tennessee when he is released from jail. While telling his story, Cormac McCarthy depicts the most sordid aspects of life with dignity, humor, and characteristic lyrical brilliance.

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, Blood Meridian brilliantly subverts the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the "wild west." Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

The Border Trilogy: All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
Beginning with All the Pretty Horses and continuing through The Crossing and Cities of the Plain, McCarthy chronicles the lives of two young men coming of age in the Southwest and Mexico, poised on the edge of a world about to change forever. Hauntingly beautiful, filled with sorrow and humor, The Border Trilogy is a masterful elegy for the American frontier.

Frances Hodgson Burnett bookshelf


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Subject of repeated motion picture interpretations, The Secret Garden is a classic of children's literature. There is a "Secret Garden Tour" during the Knoxville Dogwood Arts Festival in honor of the book and the connection to the author.

Take That Ride CD by R.B.Morris
You heard him at the Laurel benefit--hear more on the CD. Order it!