National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – March 28 – Harry Crews

0 Comments 28 March 2013


The word “original” only begins to describe Crews, whose 17 novels place him squarely in the Southern gothic tradition. He emerged from a grisly childhood in Georgia with a darkly comic vision that made him literary kin to William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Hunter S. Thompson, although, sadly, he never achieved their broad recognition.

He grew up the son of a tenet farmer and, often times, ate clay soil as his only means of sustenance. He finished high school and went into the Marine Corps at the end of the Korean War. After completing his military duty, he used the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Florida, where he, skipped class, did drugs and – eventually – met his wife. They married and divorced twice, along the way producing two sons, one of whom drowned in a neighbor’s pool as a toddler.

His literature was shockingly creative and unapologetically disarming.

  • There was the 600-pound man ensnarled with a sideshow madam (“Naked in Garden Hills,” 1969)
  • Tthe former high school football star whose life comes undone during his backwoods town’s annual rattlesnake hunt (“A Feast of Snakes,” 1976),
  • The boxer reduced to punching himself out (“The Knockout Artist,” 1988)
  • Perhaps the most extreme of Crews’ scenarios unfurled in “Car” (1972), in which the son of a junkyard owner eats an old Ford Maverick chunk by chunk, in the process becoming a spectacle on national television. The New York Times said the novel “may very well be the best metaphor yet made up about America’s passionate love affair with the automobile.”

Take this obit and rub it in some dirt. When you’ve done that put it in the middle of the floor and stare it. Think about some questionable choices you could have made and didn’t – then imagine.

Harry Crews dies at 76; Southern writer with darkly comic vision

April 01, 2012|By Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times
Harry Crews, a rough-hewn Southerner who drew a keen following with novels that describe a Hieronymus Bosch landscape of grotesques — characters who are tossed into rattlesnake pits, walk on their hands, croon lullabies to a skull and literally eat a car — died Wednesday in Gainesville, Fla. He was 76.


- who has written 512 posts on The Shade.

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