Harry Crews collection

Harry Crews collection

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Hargrett Manuscripts
Creator: Crews, Harry, 1935-
Title: Harry Crews collection
Dates: 1986-1990
Quantity: 0.2 Linear feet (1 half box)
Coll. Number: ms3350

Biographical/Historical Note

Harry Crews is a prolific novelist whose often freakish characters populate a strange, violent, and darkly humorous South. He is also the author of a widely lauded memoir, A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, about growing up poor in rural south Georgia. Crews has focused much of his work on the poor white South, influencing a growing number of younger writers to do the same, including Larry Brown and Tim McLaurin. Harry Eugene Crews was born in Bacon County on June 7, 1935, the second of two sons. His parents, Myrtice and Ray Crews, were poor farmers barely scratching out a living. After his father died of a heart attack in the middle of the night with Crews, just twenty-two months old, asleep beside him, Myrtice soon married Ray's brother Pascal. Her decision would prove fateful, as Pascal revealed himself to be a violent and dangerous drunk. In his memoir Crews describes the tenuous situation of his early family life: "The world that circumscribed the people I come from had so little margin for error, for bad luck, that when something went wrong, it almost always brought something else down with it. It was a world in which survival depended on raw courage, a courage born out of desperation and sustained by a lack of alternatives."

Crews joined the marines when he was seventeen, while his brother was away fighting in the Korean War. During his time in the service, Crews began to read seriously. When his term ended, he enrolled at the University of Florida on the G.I. Bill, with the intention of becoming a writer. The Agrarian writer Andrew Lytle, who had once taught Flannery O'Connor and James Dickey, was Crews's undergraduate writing teacher. The years leading up to his first publication were hard both personally and professionally. Crews married in 1960 and had two sons, but the marriage did not last. In 1964 tragedy struck when his older son drowned. Crews began teaching in 1962, and after years of rejection his first novel, The Gospel Singer, was published in 1968 and garnered good reviews. Its publication earned Crews a new teaching job at the University of Florida and paved the way for the publication of seven more novels over the next eight years, including Naked in Garden Hills (1969); Car (1972); The Hawk Is Dying (1973), which was adapted into a film released in 2006; The Gypsy's Curse (1974); and the widely acclaimed A Feast of Snakes (1976).

Crews's reputation as a bold and daring new voice in southern writing grew during this time. The well-known writer Norman Mailer said, "Harry Crews has a talent all his own. He begins where James Dickey left off." His writing is rooted in the Southern Gothic tradition, but Crews has claimed other influences, notably the British novelist Graham Greene. Most of his books are set in modern-day Florida or Georgia and are often edgy in their exploration of such extremities as blood sports, the limits of sanity, and bizarre compulsions and obsessions. Crews, like Flannery O'Connor, has an affinity for the grotesque in his characters. He explains this fascination as being rooted in a specific childhood experience-waking up in a carnival trailer one morning, Crews witnessed a bearded lady and a man with a cleft face talking about their dinner plans and kissing. Crews claims, "And I, lying at the back of the trailer, was never the same again." Harry Crews - New Georgia Encyclopedia http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org (Retrieved January 5, 2010)

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of six typed letters to Dr. Melvyn New, signed by Harry Crews; one index card with mss note from Harry Crews to Melvyn New, beginning "Thank you for the kind words about Body"; eight photocopied published reviews of Body by Harry Crews, one of them (Chicago Tribune, August 27, 1990) inscribed, "Mell: if not for you, we both know this book might never have been written [...] Not to shabby for an old drunk written off as finished, eh?"; Blood Issue: A Drama in Two Acts by Harry Crews, loose (unbound) typescript, 95 leaves, and another copy loose (unbound) typescript, 107 leaves; ALS on lime green paper, Harry Crews to Mel (Dr. Melvyn New), 12/21/88 ("New version of the play. I wanted you to have a copy [...]); Blood Issue: A Drama in Two Acts by Harry Crews, running title dated 12/15/89. Bound, 113 leaves, inscribed "For Mel, Live long and well, friend, Harry Crews." Loose (unbound) typescript, 95 leaves.


Arranged by record type.

Index Terms

Authors, American--20th century--Book reviews.
Authors, American--20th century--Correspondence.
Crews, Harry, 1935- -- Correspondence
Dramatists--20th century.
Manuscripts (document genre)
New, Melvyn -- Correspondence

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Harry Crews collection. MS 3350. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Related Material

Related materials available in the following collections of this repository: Harry Crews papers, 1953-2006.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

2Play- Blood Issue
3Play- Blood Issue new version, 1988
4Play- Blood Issue bound copy, 1989