Harry Crews on getting naked:
"If you’re gonna write, for God in heaven’s sake try to get naked. Try to write the truth. Try to get underneath all the sham, all the excuses, all the lies that you’ve been told. . . . If you’re gonna write fiction, you have to get right on down to it."
"Harry Crews cannot refrain from storytelling. These conversations are blessed with countless insights into the creative process, fresh takes on old questions, and always, Crews’s stories: modern-day parables that tell us how it is to live, to work, and to hurt."--Jeff Baker, Oxford American
"Harry Crews has indelible ways of approaching life and the craft of writing. This collection shows that he elevates both to a near-religious artform."--Matthew Teague, Oxford American
In 26 interviews conducted between 1972 and 1997, novelist Harry Crews tells the truth--about why and how he writes, about the literary influences on his own work, about the writers he admires (or does not), about which of his own books he likes (or does not), about his fascination with so-called freaks, and about his love of blood sports. Crews reveals the tender side under his tough-guy image, discussing his beloved mother and his spiritual quest in a secular world.
Crews also speaks frankly about his failed relationships, the role that writing played in them, and his personal struggles with alcohol and drugs and their impact on his life and work. Those seeking insights into his work will find them in these interviews. Those seeking to be entertained in Crewsian fashion will not be disappointed.
Harry Crews on his tattoo and mohawk . . .
"If you can’t get past my ‘too’--my tattoo--and my ‘do’--the way I got my hair cut--it’s only because you have decided there are certain things that can be done with hair and certain things that cannot be done with hair. And certain of them are right and proper and decent, and the rest indicate a warped, degenerate nature; therefore I am warped and degenerate. 'Cause I got my hair cut a different way, man? You gonna really live your life like that? What’s wrong with you?"
On advice to young writers . . .
"You have to go to considerable trouble to live differently from the way the world wants you to live. That’s what I’ve discovered about writing. The world doesn’t want you to do a damn thing. If you wait till you got time to write a novel or time to write a story or time to read the hundred thousands of books you should have already read--if you wait for the time, you’ll never do it. 'Cause there ain’t no time; world don’t want you to do that. World wants you to go to the zoo and eat cotton candy, preferably seven days a week."
On being "well-rounded" . . .
"I never wanted to be well-rounded, and I do not admire well-rounded people nor their work. So far as I can see, nothing good in the world has ever been done by well-rounded people. The good work is done by people with jagged, broken edges, because those edges cut things and leave an imprint, a design."
Harry Crews is the author of 23 books, including The Gospel Singer, Naked in Garden Hills, This Thing Don’t Lead to Heaven, Karate Is a Thing of the Spirit, Car, The Hawk Is Dying, The Gypsy’s Curse, A Feast of Snakes, A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, Blood and Grits, The Enthusiast, All We Need of Hell, The Knockout Artist, Body, Scar Lover, The Mulching of America, Celebration, and Florida Frenzy (UPF, 1982).
Erik Bledsoe is an instructor of English and American studies at the University of Tennessee. He has published articles on southern writers and edited a special issue of the Southern Quarterly devoted to Crews. His 1997 interview with Harry Crews from that magazine is included in this collection.