R.I.P. Harry Crews, my former teacher

In his fiction and in his life, Harry Crews empathized most with the people who needed it most: the freaks, the fuck-ups, people who’d been broken by loss of one kind or another. Crews died yesterday, at age 76. As his son Byron told The Daily’s Claire Howorth, “[he] put more miles on the Chevy than most of us.”

Amended to say: Now that I’ve pulled myself together, I wrote about him for The Awl. And of course, there are the archives.

Image courtesy of the University of Georgia’s Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library; you can also find a podcast of Crews teaching a creative writing seminar.

Upcoming: In Indianapolis and New York

I’m finishing up some longer projects and running around for the next little while. Wednesday night, March 28, I’ll be speaking at Butler University, in Indianapolis.

On April 10, I read with the amazing Alexander Chee for KGB Bar’s nonfiction series. And I might as well be living at my favorite bookstore in April. On the 4th, I interview Madeline Miller (of the wonderful The Song of Achilles). On the 17th, I’ve got your daily double for FSG’s Nerd Jeopardy. On the 25th, I talk with the venerable Ron Rash (Serena, The Cove). Details for these events and others reside here.

I’d love to see you and talk for a second in the midst of the whirl.

Image Credit: Downtown Indianapolis from the Canal, by Matthew Rogers.

Headed back to Faulkner Country tomorrow

The last time I visited Oxford, Mississippi, at the end of a trip through ancestral haunts in the Delta, I stopped by Faulkner’s grave, Rowan Oak, and Square Books, and consumed my weight in sweet tea and fried catfish with my favorite aunt.

I aim to do some of the same things this weekend, when I’m in town for the Oxford Conference for the Book to talk online publishing with Jack Pendarvis, Anya Groner, and Michael Bible. Other speakers include Barbara Epler, Josh Weil, Steve Yarbrough, and Ken Auletta, to name just a few.

I found a new polka dotted dress for the occasion, and managed to rope my dearest Carrie Frye into meeting me there. I wish I had an extra day or two to get over to Eudora Welty’s house and my Great Aunt Maude’s official state archives (really!) in Jackson, but I fly back Sunday for a couple days before heading to speak at Butler University next week. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to Gulf Coast oysters, mint juleps in their native habitat, and good company.

Book-giving serendipity

Last month I sent Darin Strauss a copy of Muriel Spark’s Memento Mori after he overpaid for his part of a cab ride home from a party. In return, he introduced me to the Essential Stories of V.S. Pritchett. And then, poking around online, he discovered that Pritchett (pictured) had once written an introduction to an edition of Memento Mori. We were excited as any two book nerds could be.

So far I’ve only found a few tiny excerpts, but they’re great. “Only one other novelist and playwright of consequence — Samuel Beckett — had looked at Mrs. Spark’s subject: the corruption of the flesh, the tedium of waiting to die,” Pritchett said, praising her for taking on “the great suppressed and censored subject of contemporary society, the one we do not care to face, which we regard as indecent: old age.”

Now if only someone will get permission to republish the full text online . . .

Sven Birkerts on loss and change

other-walk“Lost things have their own special category. So long as they’re lost, and felt to be lost, they belong to the imagination and live more vividly than before. They make a mystery.” — Sven Birkerts, The Other Walk.

Birkerts’ best personal essays are steeped in an anxious nostalgia that is, in intensity if not in focus, all too familiar to me.

The Pump You Pump the Water From,” on his wistfulness for the writing processes of his younger days, is online at the Los Angeles Review of Books. If you like it, pick up The Other Walk, and read that, too.