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
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
Scar Lover, 1992
The Mulching of America, 1995
Where Does One Go When There’s No Place Left to Go?, 1998
“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
Blood Issue, pr. 1989
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
Classic Crews: A Harry Crews Reader, 1993
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.
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.