To say that Harry Crews deals in stereotypes is oversimplifying his mastery of storytelling and his vision of the South. Through characterization, he drags his readers into the perverted and violent lives of the populace of the rural South, those often characterized as “rednecks,” and abandons them there with a slender thread of story line. Although this is a landscape of unfamiliar, sick, and often repulsive characters, readers become involved with and empathetic toward characters with whom they should find no identity. In this, Crews is a master of characterization—in making the absurd and abnormal appear logical and sane. Although the characters and the narration are random and diverse, Crews makes each character oddly credible and vaguely recognizable, as if he taps the unconscious characterization in his readers or explores the recesses of their genealogical closets.
Although “stereotypes” is too bland an assessment, one must note that Crews deals in types: the deflated former athletic hero trapped in a dull reality from which he sees no escape, among persons who no longer cheer his shallow victories; the image of his sister Beeder—the “mad woman in the attic”—who, having witnessed her mother’s suicide, now refuses to participate in the real world, preferring to dwell in the fabricated reality of television; Buddy Matlow, the sheriff, who abuses his power to whet his sexual appetites and receives the ultimate punishment to fit the...
(The entire section is 471 words.)