By God, I love me some Harry Crews. And so, it seems, does The New York Times, where David Shaftel puts in a brief profile.
In June, the literary wild man Harry Crews published the latest book — his 23rd — in his continuing saga of the roughneck South. The book, “An American Family,” a novella about the violent demise and unexpected redemption of an abusive husband, is Mr. Crews’s first in eight years. Unlike most of the others, it was published not by a mainstream publishing house, but by a little-known small press, Blood and Guts, based in Los Angeles.
Here’s the best part of Shaftel’s piece:
Mr. Crews, the son of Georgia tenant farmers, taught creative writing at the University of Florida for nearly 30 years before retiring in 1997. His blunt style, combined with his often rowdy behavior, led to an estrangement from the more erudite world of academia.
“Everybody in the system is scared to death,” he said in the telephone interview. “Professors are scared of department heads,” he said. “They’re just scared little people hiding out. And these other scared little people come and sit in a scared little class and tremble. I didn’t want to do that. Let’s do something memorable, and if we can’t do something memorable, then let’s go home. Or we’ll go across the street and get a drink.”
Although I studied fiction writing with Crews years ago, as a sophomore, I haven’t gotten in touch with him since then — until I sent him a letter the week before last. You know that feeling you have when you drop a letter in the mailbox, and the little door thingie slams shut, and then you realize with perfect clarity that the recipient has more interest in cleaning his bathroom floor with a toothbrush than hearing from you? Yeah.