Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews

By Gordon, Sarah | Flannery O'Connor Review, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews


Gordon, Sarah, Flannery O'Connor Review


Ted Geltner. Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews. Foreword by Michael Connelly. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2016. xii + 414 pp. [$32.50] cloth.

Nearly two decades ago I made a list of writers who might contribute to a kind of festschrift to honor Flannery O'Connor on what would have been her seventy-fifth birthday in 2000. One of the writers on that list, Harry Crews, I approached in fear and trembling. I had met Harry briefly at a rambling and boozy talk he gave in Madison, Georgia, on a panel with Sally Fitzgerald, who talked about O'Connor's life and the forthcoming biography. Crews gave O'Connor high praise; I remembered that, and because I had read several of Crews's novels by that time, I believed, as did others, that O'Connor had clearly been an influence on Crews's foray into the grotesque and bizarre. In fact, I had presented a lecture at Oberlin College nearly a decade earlier about "decadence" in southern writing, using as my subjects O'Connor, Truman Capote, and Harry Crews.

To my surprise and delight, Crews was kind and receptive to my request, even though I was a bit embarrassed to say that there would be no payment for the piece: all of the writers eventually included in Flannery O'Connor: A Celebration of Genius had agreed to donate their tributes, the royalties to benefit the O'Connor Collection at the Georgia College Library. The solicited writers had a year in which to complete the assignment. All of them easily reached the deadline except for one. Harry Crews.

Thus, once again I bucked up my courage to get in touch with the author. When he answered the phone and I reminded him of the deadline, now past, he suddenly began to rant against O'Connor. He couldn't write in praise of her, he said, because he had decided that she was "hateful," that she despised and made fun of her characters, and that she was (heralding today's parlance) "nasty" in her superiority to them. (Crews added that he imagined I was a "nice lady" and that perhaps we could have lunch sometime.) I was stung, disappointed, and angry.

Ted Geltner's biography of the nearly feral and defiantly iconoclastic Crews captures well the writer's contrary nature, as well as chronicles his famed belligerence, womanizing, and substance abuse. Harry Crews was outspoken and, it has to be said, defensively anti-intellectual. His tenure at the University of Florida was marked by binges, undisguised rudeness (To demonstrate his boredom at faculty meetings, he would open his wallet and repeatedly rearrange the bills.), and sheer bravado. The students loved him, according to Geltner, and returned again and again to his classes, which relied on drama, showmanship, and-maybe surprisingly-his great love of literature.

Born in 1935 in one of Georgia's poorest counties, Bacon in southeast Georgia, Harry Crews, the son of a tenant farmer, endured an agonizing boyhood, as he so compellingly recounted in his 1979 memoir, A Childhood. Crews was a victim of polio in his early years and shortly thereafter experienced a terrible fall into the vat of boiling water used to process the hog on hog-killing day. He was forced to remain in bed, initially immobile, for months; it was then that his love of reading began, though books were scarce. He and his African-American childhood playmate Willalee Bookatee made up stories based on images in the Sears & Roebuck catalogue and passed many hours in their own imaginative realm. Theirs was a sweet friendship that, unfortunately, did not last beyond their early years.

Because of polio, Crews walked with a decided limp all of his life, and near the end could hardly use his legs. Thus it is not surprising that he later became addicted to stringent exercise and even coached one of his girlfriends, Maggie Powell, as she became a prize-winning bodybuilder. Indeed, one could argue that Crews's entire life was an extreme quest for completeness, wholeness-to redeem his scarred body and his uncertain identity, for he was, in fact, never sure of the identity of his real father, remaining obsessed with this question until his death in 2012. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.