“We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the time I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.” So begins the famous short piece entitled “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” by James Agee. This year marks the centennial of his reminisced summer of 1915.
Knox County Public Library and the City of Knoxville invite the public to celebrate Agee’s famous prelude on Sunday, June 21, 5:00–7:00 in James Agee Park, 331 James Agee Street in Fort Sanders, with an ice cream social, music of the era led by Nancy Brennan Strange, stories of Ft. Sanders in 1915 by Jack Neely, and a public reading of the piece by RB Morris. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees should bring lawn chairs or quilts for the program. Parking is available on the streets in Fort Sanders.
The Library is also honoring the centennial by publishing "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" notecards featuring photographs of the Agee family and scenes of Knoxville in that timeframe. The cards will be given as a reward to participants in the Adult Reading Challenge for reading 4 books over the course of the summer. Other events celebrating "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" are being planned and will be announced soon.
In 1935, James Agee wrote his improvisational piece reflecting on the summer evenings of his boyhood. It was originally published in 1938 in the Partisan Review and was later attached as a prelude to his novel A Death in the Family. In 1948 Metropolitan Opera star Eleanor Steber commissioned Samuel Barber to put excerpts of the piece to music, which she debuted with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitzky.
Agee was born in Knoxville in 1909, where he lived as a young boy in the Fort Sanders neighborhood. His childhood unraveled in 1916 when his father was killed in an automobile accident at age 45. He recounted the events surrounding his father's accident in A Death in the Family, which was published posthumously and earned the Pulitzer Prize.