Authors: Harry Crews

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist and journalist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Gospel Singer, 1968

Naked in Garden Hills, 1969

This Thing Don’t Lead to Heaven, 1970

Karate Is a Thing of the Spirit, 1971

Car, 1972

The Hawk Is Dying, 1973

The Gypsy’s Curse, 1974

A Feast of Snakes, 1976

The Enthusiast, 1981

All We Need of Hell, 1987

The Knockout Artist, 1988

Body, 1990

Scar Lover, 1992

The Mulching of America, 1995

Where Does One Go When There’s No Place Left to Go?, 1998

Celebration, 1998

Short Fiction:

“The Unattached Smile,” 1963

“It Reminds Me of the Opera,” 1964

“A Long Wail,” 1964

“The Player Piano,” 1967

“No Noise in the Wood,” 1973

“Becky Lives,” 1995

Drama:

Blood Issue, pr. 1989

Nonfiction:

A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, 1978

Blood and Grits, 1979

Florida Frenzy, 1982

Madonna at Ringside, 1991

Getting Naked with Harry Crews: Interviews, 1999

Miscellaneous:

Classic Crews: A Harry Crews Reader, 1993

Biography

Harry Eugene Crews, a quintessential southerner, uses his experiences to portray an American South that is both bizarre and tragicomic. Born during the Depression, as a child Crews experienced poverty that informed and shaped his later work. As he chronicled in his autobiography A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, Crews was born in 1935 on a tiny farm in rural Georgia. His father was an unsuccessful farmer who died when Harry was just two years old. Crews’s mother remarried; unfortunately, Harry’s stepfather was equally unsuccessful as a farmer and abused alcohol as well. Crews’s stepfather was also cruel and violent toward Harry, his brother, and his mother.{$I[A]Crews, Harry}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Crews, Harry}{$I[tim]1935;Crews, Harry}

Poverty, combined with fear and violence, could scar any child emotionally, but Harry Crews suffered two more childhood traumas. He was stricken with a bizarre illness that caused his leg muscles to contract into a painful and unnatural angle, rendering him unable to walk for six months. Then, while playing with some other children near a huge vat of boiling water used to sear the skin off freshly slaughtered hogs, Crews slipped and fell into the bubbling water. His well-meaning family wrapped him in a sheet to get him to the doctor, and when the sheet was removed most of his skin came off with it. These events, combined with his family life, greatly informed his later work, infusing it with the tragedy and pathos indelibly etched into his psyche.

Crews left the small town that had been his childhood home and entered the Air Force, then attended the University of Florida under the G.I. Bill. He married Sally Ellis while he was in college, and the couple had two sons, Patrick and Byron. In yet another of the tragedies of Harry Crews’s life, when Patrick was three years old, he was playing beside a swimming pool and fell in and drowned. Crews’s hard-living, hard-drinking lifestyle reflected the pain he felt inside. Crews and Ellis eventually divorced, twice.

Throughout his career as a writing teacher at various colleges in Florida and into his retirement, Crews has written novels and nonfiction that feature characters born out of his pain and suffering. Physical deformity, violent machismo, psychic pain, larger-than-life grotesques, and bizarre figures populate his work. The Gypsy’s Curse, Body, and Scar Lover are examples of strange and startling fiction, while Blood and Grits is a good example of Crews’s penchant for the bizarre in his nonfiction as well. Crews has created a body of work that is at once impressive and unique among southern writers. He retired from teaching in 1997 to focus all his time on his writing. Crews lives in Florida.

BibliographyBledsoe, Erik, ed. Getting Naked with Harry Crews. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999. Bledsoe collects twenty-six interviews with Harry Crews, conducted by a variety of interviewers and focusing on such topics as machismo, moralism, and the art of writing.Bledsoe, Erik, ed. Perspectives on Harry Crews. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001. A diverse group of essayists explore a wide variety of themes and influences in the work of Harry Crews. Scholars such as James P. Watkins and Elise S. Lake examine topics ranging from “redneck” masculinity to women to political implications in Crews’s novels. Includes comprehensive bibliography.Hargraves, Michael. Harry Crews: A Bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Meckler, 1986. This comprehensive, book-length bibliography includes sections on Crews’s original novels and nonfiction collections, periodical articles, interviews, biographies, and critical works until the time of the volume’s publication in 1986.Jeffrey, David K., ed. A Grit’s Triumph: Essays on the Works of Harry Crews. Port Washington, N.Y.: Associated Faculty Press, 1983. Jeffrey compiles essays by such scholars as Donald R. Noble and Ruth L. Brittin to create a definitive volume of Harry Crews scholarship. Topics such as the land, the church, sports, Crews’s “freaks,” and theme and technique in writing are explored in this collection. Also included is an interview with Crews.Spikes, Michael P. “Harry Crews.” In American Novelists Since World War II, Third Series, edited by James R. Giles and Wanda H. Giles. Vol. 143 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1994. Profiles Crews’s work as a novelist and the events in his life that led him to become a writer of fiction in this concise overview of Crews’s career.
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