We can get so distracted by Agee’s confessions of inadequacy and failure that we don’t notice how much information and illumination are actually present on the page, and Tenants helped remind me of that presence, the ways in which Agee was offering the goods with one hand while the other hand was disclaiming, saying No, no, I couldn’t begin to offer anything at all.
Agee has never worked, but knows he’ll enjoy it; he has gotten drunk, and he knows he’ll enjoy that too. There’s a sense of manifest destiny in his hypnotic syntax, a grammatical insistence on the fulfillment of desire: I like to . . . and will; I like to . . . and will; I like to . . . and will. He fantasizes about camaraderie and distraction; he wants to be delivered from his own interior life. He’s done too much hard time with too many sonnet writers in Harvard Yard. He wants out. The thing looks good in every way.