Friday, April 13, 2012

Harry Crews, RIP

Just got the news from Tom McIntyre that Harry Crews, author of A Feast of Snakes, Car, The Hawk is Dying, A Childhood, and other wonderful books, is dead at 76. Over his long life he wrote beautifully and grotesquely about death and love, hawking, hounds, chickenfights, karate, and eating a car. He lived hard, drank, fought, taught, and always WROTE. A decent biographical obit can be found here, but an interview here catches his fierce spirit better. A few nuggets:

"But I don’t know, I like to talk about writing and I like to talk about books and I like to talk about all that stuff. I mean, such as it’s been, it’s been my life.

Your enthusiasm for all that hasn’t diminished as you’ve gotten older?

"No. Hell no. I’m so fucking in love with it. I thank God I got this book to work on."

On writing every day:

"I write in longhand, I write on a typewriter, I write on a computer, I’d write with charcoal if it would make me write better. I don’t care what it is as long as it gets the words down. I only want about 500 words a day... That’s only two manuscript pages, double spaced. If I can get two pages that’ll do it. You’d be surprised what that will turn out if you do it every day of your life."

On writing from experience:

"If I haven’t done it, I can’t write about it. If I haven’t been involved in it, smelled it, tasted it, floundered around in it—the subject, that is—I can’t write about it. I know there are some guys that can, and do it well. But I’m not one of them."

On drink:

Why do so many writers end up being drunks?

"I’ve thought about it a lot, and I... don’t know what it is, but it would seem to be a true thing. Alcohol is the writer’s friend or enemy or something, and they do a lot of it."


Darrell said...

I read The Hawk Is Dying, many years ago... what an odd book. My oldest brother had it, I was just a young kid when I picked it up. Couldn't put it down...

Unknown said...

Nobody captured the pipeline days in Alaska better than Harry Crews. Playboy magazine sent him here in the early 70s to write a lengthy piece on the impact of the TAPS pipeline. His "Going Down in Valdez" concluded with a young prostitute receiving a tattoo of a butterfly, an event he compared to Alaska itself (BTW, while researching his Alaska story, he became heroically intoxicated one evening and woke up with a new tattoo of a hinge on the inside of his elbow).

Crews wrote "If Alaska is not our young whore, what is she? If we scar her, leave her with pestilence and corrupted with infection, irrefutably marked with our own private design, who can blame us?"

Pow. Thanks, Harry.