In this book on shaping a meaningful and ethical life, the renowned, Pulitzer Prize–winning author explores how character, courage, and human and moral understanding can be fostered by reflecting on the lives of others, through stories. Based on Robert Coles’ legendary course at Harvard, this provocative book addresses such questions as, “Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?” It calls on us to become stronger and more aware, by reflecting on ourselves and others with the help of great literature and art.
Dr. Coles shows how the work of writers, artists, and thinkers of the past two centuries can inspire our own reflections on the daily lives we lead. He offers a compelling call to venture outside of our own selves and lives and to listen, attentively and with growing humanity, to the way others get through life. Coles encourages us to examine our own character, kindness, and complexity by looking carefully at our perceptions of others, and by studying the wisdom of authors from Charles Dickens to Flannery O’Connor, from James Agee to George Orwell, and many others. In this influential conversation about empathy and engagement, Coles inspires us to seek out deeper meaning in our lives, and guides us toward achieving greater clarity, strength, and richness of understanding, amid the moral, psychological, and social complexities of the modern world.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Handing One Another Along|
|Release Date: 08-31-2010|
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|Publisher: Random House|
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Handing One Another Along
A Biting Irony
Let us start with an introduction to James Agee, born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1909. His parents were of different backgrounds. His father, Hugh James Agee, was of Appalachian yeoman stock, basically a workingman, one generation removed from the hollows of the Great Smoky Mountains. His mother was from what would be called today, by some, an upper-middle-class commercial family, and she was well educated. She received various periodicals, including the Atlantic Monthly-she had refinement and aspirations toward culture. When their first child, James (or Rufus, as he was called as a boy), was six years old, his father was killed in an automobile accident-an important moment in James's life. The last thing Agee wrote, the quasi-autobiographical novel A Death in the Family, would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1957, although this was two years after his own untimely death, in 1955, from a heart attack suffered in the back of a taxicab; he was on his way to New York Hospital because he had been experiencing chest pains.
Agee's forty-five years proved to be tumultuous: the death of a parent at only six, and by ten or eleven he was sent off to the St. Andrew's School, an Episcopal boarding school in Sewanee, Tennessee, right near the University of the South, run at that time by a monastic Episcopalian order. He lived there for three or four years while his mother was getting her feet on the ground after the death of her husband and was tending to the boy's younger sister.
When Agee was sixteen he left St. Andrew's for Phillips Exeter Academy, in New Hampshire-a fancy private school with a long intellectual tradition. He was a southern boy of a comp...