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A Large & Startling Figure

The Harry Crews Online Bibliography

Harry (Eugene) Crews (1935-)

Harry Crews was born June 7, 1935, to Ray and Myrtice, sharecroppers in rural Alma, Georgia. In 1937, Ray died of a heart attack at age 35 leaving Myrtice to care for Harry and his older brother Hoyett. Later that year, Pascal Crews, Ray's hard-drinking older brother, divorced his wife and married Myrtice. In 1941, Myrtice—overcome by Pascal's incessant abuse—gathered her boys and moved south to Jacksonville, Florida, where she rolled tobacco leaves in a cigar factory and lived among other displaced Georgians.

Discharged from the Marines in 1956, Crews enrolled at the University of Florida in Gainesville where he studied creative writing with Andrew Lytle. In January 1960, Crews married fellow-student Sally Ellis, and that September, Patrick Scott was born. After graduating, Crews taught junior high English in Jacksonville, and a year later, returned to Gainesville to enter the Masters program for English Education. Absorbed by his graduate studies and increasingly devoted to writing, the family suffered. Crews and Sally divorced in 1962. After graduation, Crews moved to Fort Lauderdale where he taught English at Broward Community College. Feeling settled, Crews persuaded Sally to join him there and to remarry, and in August 1963, Byron Jason was born. Earlier that spring, Crews also celebrated his first story publication, "The Unattached Smile" in The Sewanee Review. In July 1964, tragedy struck when Patrick drowned in a neighbor's swimming pool. Shortly after, Crews and Sally were divorced again.

In 1968, spurred by the publication of his first novel, The Gospel Singer, Crews left Broward Community College to become Assistant Professor of English at the University of Florida. Avidly pursuing tenure, Crews lectured in class and at writers' conferences, published essays on writer's craft in academic journals, and, after receiving an Atherton Scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, continued on another four years as summer faculty. By 1974, Crews had written seven novels. After a leave of absence to visit his uncle's farm in Georgia, Crews wrote an essay developing the incipient themes of A Childhood. "One Morning in February," published in Shenandoah, won the Best Nonfiction Award from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines. In 1974, the university granted Crews full professorship. On this success, Playboy magazine paid Crews to travel and write about the construction of the oil pipeline in Alaska. "Going Down in Valdeez," selected by Playboy as its best nonfiction piece of 1975, also marked Crews's transition into journalism. By December, Crews had written twice more for Playboy and once for Esquire, leading, in 1976, to the Esquire column "Grits," which lasted 14 months. During this time, Crews wrote A Feast of Snakes and A Childhood, the two books that bear the greatest weight of his reputation as a writer. After writing A Childhood, which documents his upbringing, the traumas of his early adolescence, and the attempts of an older Crews to reconcile, as an adult, his past, Crews did not publish another novel for nearly ten years, as though the intensity and demands of A Childhood had burned him out. In 1987, Crews published All We Need of Hell, and since then five other novels.

The 1990s brought a resurgence of critical and popular interest in the U.S. and Europe for Crews as writer, teacher, and celebrity. The anthology Classic Crews: A Harry Crews Reader, collected two out-of-print novels, Car and The Gypsy's Curse, as well as A Childhood and a selection of essays. A companion novel to The Gospel Singer titled Where Does One Go When There's No Place Left to Go? was also published. In 1997, after nearly thirty years at the University of Florida, Crews retired from teaching. As of March 2003, Crews had completed—but refused to publish—Assault on Memory, a follow-up to his autobiography, and was working actively on a novel titled Pit Bull.

Damon Sauve

WORKS: 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). A Childhood: The Biography of a Place (1978). Blood and Grits (1979). The Enthusiast (1981). Florida Frenzy (1982). Two by Crews (1984). All We Need of Hell (1987). The Knockout Artist (1988). Body (1990). Madonna at Ringside (1991). Scar Lover (1992). Classic Crews: A Harry Crews Reader (1993). The Mulching of America (1995). Celebration (1998). Where Does One Go When There's No Place Left to Go? (1998).

Originally published in Southern Writers: A New Biographical Dictionary [Joseph M. Flora and Amber Vogel, editors. Louisiana State University Press, 2006. Pages 89-90.].

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A Large & Startling Figure: The Harry Crews Online Bibliography
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