Harry Crews Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 446 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bledsoe, 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.