Harry Crews' letters to James Leo Herlihy

Harry Crews' letters to James Leo Herlihy

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Hargrett Manuscripts
Creator: Crews, Harry, 1935-
Title: Harry Crews' letters to James Leo Herlihy
Dates: 1972-1973
Quantity: 0.1 Linear feet (1 folder)
Coll. Number: ms3834

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 2, 2014)


Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of two letters from Harry Crews to author James Leo Herlihy, from 1972-1973. Herlihy is known for his novels All Fall Down (1960) and Midnight Cowboy (1965), as well as his play Blue Denim (1958), all of which were adapted for film. The first letter concerns the University of Florida Writers' Conference, of which Crews is director. Crews updates Herlihy on the dates of the conference, discusses compensation for his attendance, and requests a picture and biographical sketch that includes Herlihy's publications. In the second letter, Crews thanks Herlihy for his praise of his book and suggests that they get together soon.


Index Terms

Authors, American.
Conferences.
Herlihy, James Leo, 1927-1993
University of Florida.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation note

Harry Crews letters to James Leo Herlihy, ms 3834, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.


Related Material

Related collections in the Hargrett Library include the Harry Crews papers, ms 3340, the Harry Crews collection, ms 3350, Harry Crews letter to James F. Wilkerson, ms 3450, Harry Crews letter to Gil Moody, ms 3451, and the Harry Crews "Knockout Artists" typescript, ms 3639, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries.


Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

 
BoxFolder
11Letters (2), 1972-1973