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Hall of Fame Honorees

Harry Crews

"When I was a boy," Harry Crews wrote of growing up in the 1930s in rural Bacon County, Georgia, "stories were conversation, and conversation was stories."

For Crews these stories led to the ones he would create himself, a refuge he discovered during his childhood "in the worst hookworm and rickets part of Georgia," a difficult land of tenant farms where "survival was triumph enough." And when military service led him toward a college education and a writers' career, Harry Crews would soon immortalize the stories and images that peopled his upbringing and subsequent travels in many novels, as well as in one of the finest memoirs ever written, A Childhood: The Biography of a Place.

After a hitch in the Marine Corps at the end of the Korean War, Crews attended the University of Florida, where he earned a Master's degree in education. A student of the Southern novelist Andrew Lytle, who co-founded Florida's creative writing program, Crews broke into literary publication with short stories in The Sewanee Review and The Georgia Review in the early 1960s while teaching high-school and junior-college English in Florida. He did not publish his first novel, The Gospel Singer, until 1968, but after that he published nearly a novel a year for the next eight years. The Gospel Singer -- which one critic described as "a Christian tragedy set in a world deprived of the old certainties of Christianity, where Gospel singing and religion have turned into a lucrative business" -- is one of two novels that Crews set in south Georgia. The other was A Feast of Snakes (1976), an explosive tale of tragedy during a ritual festival of mythic violence, the annual rattlesnake roundup, set in a fictionalized version of the small south Georgia town of Mystic, Georgia.

In the 1970s Crews began compiling a body of journalism and nonfiction as well, churning out interviews, essays, and book reviews for Playboy and other magazines, as well as writing a monthly column, "Grits," as a contributing editor for Esquire. In 1978 Harper and Row published, to considerable acclaim, Crews' memoir of his youth, A Childhood: The Biography of a Place. A Childhood tells of his growing up in rural southern Georgia and of coming to terms with that culture as an adult. Wrote a critic in the New York Times Book Review, "It's easy to despise poor folks. A Childhood makes it more difficult. It raises almost to a level of heroism these people who seem of a different century. A Childhood is not about a forgotten America, it is about a part of America that has rarely, except in books like this, been properly discovered." Two installments of an incomplete, unpublished sequel to A Childhood have appeared in print, in Southern Quarterly (Fall 1998) and The Georgia Review (Winter 2008).

Crews' voluminous body of nonfiction has been compiled in two collections, Blood and Grits (1979) and Florida Frenzy (1982), and another yet unpublished collection, Glimpses through a Keyhole. In 1987 Crews published his ninth novel, All We Need of Hell, then went on to publish The Knockout Artist (1988), Body (1990), Scar Lover (1992), The Mulching of America (1995), Celebration (1998), and An American Family: The Baby with the Curious Markings (2006).

Several documentaries have been made of Crews' life and work, and one of his novels - The Hawk is Dying (1973) - was adapted as a movie that was selected for inclusion in the Sundance Film Festival in 2006. Published abroad in the U.K. since 1972, Crews' novels have been translated into Dutch, Italian, French, Basque, Hebrew, and German. In 2005, Crews appeared as one of the narrators whose testimonials about the South's unique culture of literature and music are central to the documentary Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus.

Named Georgia Author of the Year for fiction in 1969 for The Gospel Singer, Crews was awarded an NEA grant, an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and he also won the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines of America's award for the best nonfiction article of 1977. A longtime professor of creative writing at the University of Florida, Crews was invited to teach fiction at the annual Bread Loaf Writers Conference 1969 to 1973, and he lectured and read at numerous conferences and universities, in the United States and abroad.

Crews retired as a full professor from the University of Florida in 1997. In 1998 Crews was awarded the annual Hemingway Days festival's Conch Republic Prize for Literature, for a career demonstrating "devotion to the art and craft of literature, the willingness to take creative risks, and the maverick spirit of Key West." In 2008 the Florida Arts Council voted him into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

Harry Crews died at age 76 in Gainesville, Florida, on March 28, 2012.

Photo courtesy Harry Crews.

Bibliography

The following titles are a selection* of the many works by Harry Crews that are held by the Hall of Fame Library:

2 by Crews. Northridge, CA: Lord John Press, 1984.

All We Need of Hell. New York: Perennial Library, 1988.

All We Need of Hell. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.

All We Need of Hell (Uncorrected proof). New York: Harper & Row, 1987.

Blood and grits. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.

Blood and grits. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Body. New York: Poseidon Press, 1990.

Car; a novel. New York: Morrow, 1972.

Car. London: Secker & Warburg, 1973.

Celebration: a novel. New York : Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Celebration: a novel (Uncorrected proof). New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

A Childhood, The Biography of a Place. New York: Harper & Row, 1978.

A Childhood: The Biography of a Place. London: Secker and Warburg, 1979.

A Childhood, The Biography of a Place. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995.

Classic Crews: a Harry Crews Reader. New York: Poseidon Press, 1993.

The Enthusiast. Palaemon Press, 1981.

A Feast of Snakes. New York: Atheneum, 1976.

A Feast of Snakes. New York: Ballantine Books, 1978.

Florida Frenzy. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1982.

Getting Naked with Harry Crews: Interviews / edited by Erik Bledsoe. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999.

The Gospel Singer. New York: Morrow, 1968.

The Gospel Singer; and, Where Does One Go When There's No Place Left to Go? London: Gorse, 1995.

The Gospel Singer. New York: Perennial Library, 1988.

The Gospel Singer. New York: Dell Pub. Co., 1969.

The Gypsy's Curse: a novel. New York: Knopf; [distributed by Random House] 1974.

The Gypsy's Curse: a novel. New York: Pocket Books, 1976.

The Hawk is Dying. New York: Knopf, 1973.

The Hawk is Dying. London: Secker & Warburg, 1974.

Karate is a Thing of the Spirit; a novel. New York: Morrow, 1971.

The Knockout Artist: a novel (Uncorrected proof). New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

The Knockout Artist. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Madonna at Ringside. Northridge: Lord John Press, 1991.

The Mulching of America: a novel. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

The Mulching of America: a novel (Uncorrected proof). New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Naked in Garden Hills. New York: Morrow, 1969.

Scar Lover. New York: Poseidon Press, c1992.

Scar Lover. Advance uncorrected proofs. New York: Poseidon Press, 1992.

This Thing Don't Lead to Heaven. New York: Morrow, 1970.

Where Does One Go When There's No Place Left to Go? Los Angeles: Graham: Blood & Guts Press, 1998.

An American Family: The Baby with the Curious Markings. Los Angeles: Graham Press, 2006.

*The University of Georgia Library also holds numerous variant editions and foreign language translations of Harry Crews' works, as well as uncorrected proof copies of various novels by him, and recordings of interviews and readings. For a full listing of Harry Crews' works in the UGA Libraries, contact the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library staff for assistance.

Additional Links

Manuscript Holdings

Harry Crews
INDUCTEE: 2002

Born: June 6, 1935
Alma, Georgia

Died: March 28, 2012
Gainesville, Florida

University of Georgia Libraries | Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library