RE: RARA-AVIS: Harry Crews

From: John Williams (
Date: 21 Apr 2005

  Mark wrote:

  As I said, I've read A Childhood. I also have Feast of Snakes, Gospel Singer, Knockout Artist and Classic Crews. Which do you suggest to start with?

  I'd go with The Gospel Singer. It's his first book and his best - in fact it's a flat-out American classic (someone once told me that Tom Jones had the movie rights for a time, in which case it's a blessing it was never filmed. On the other hand someone else told me it was Kristofferson, which makes it a shame). Feast Of Snakes is very good and The Knockout Artist one of the last decent ones before he went into a precipitate decline with Scar Lover (an ancient novella re-warmed and padded out) and The Mulching Of America (indescribably bad).I interviewed Crews around the time of the Mulching and it was pretty much the most depressing literary encounter I've ever had. By and large writers prove the exception to the never meet your heroes axiom, but Mr Crews was definitely the exception to the exception - thirty years of bullying students at Gainesville seemed to have turned him into the husk of a writer. A real shame, hopefully it was just a bad day. His non-fiction collection Blood & Grits (long pieces, mainly from Playboy and Esquire, on the Alaka Pipeline, Charles Bronson, the Apallachian trail, etc, etc) is one of my absolute favourite books of its kind - certainly puts Hunter Thompson in his place.

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