The wait for Harry Crews is over
The Winter Edition of the Georgia Review contains 23 pages of Crews' writing
Published: Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2012 at 5:53 p.m.
For Harry Crews fans, five years is a long time to wait.
To get a copy
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That's how long it's been since Gainesville's resident literary wild man, a prolific purveyor of twisted tales of the South, has unleashed new material on the reading public.
With the publication of the Winter Edition of the Georgia Review, the wait is over. The literary journal, out this week, contains 23 pages of Crews' writing — a chapter from a heretofore unpublished memoir, and a related chapter from Crews' first published novel, “The Gospel Singer.”
The new material may be a sign that 2012 will see a bit of a re-emergence of the 77-year-old Bacon County, Ga., native. The Georgia Review plans to follow up with another Crews-related edition later this year, a Hollywood movie producer recently bought an option to bring one of Crews' many novels to the big screen, and a new digital publishing firm has plans to bring him into the 21st century by making all of his previously published work available on e-readers.
For the uninitiated, Harry Crews first came to prominence in the '60s and '70s, eventually churning out more than 20 novels, in the process leaving his mark on the literary genre known as Southern Gothic.
Along the way, Crews taught creative writing for more than 30 years in the University of Florida's English Department, wrote dozens of screenplays and penned articles and essays for Playboy, Esquire and numerous other publications. He's a member of both the Florida Artists Hall of Fame and the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.
According to Georgia Review editor Stephen Corey, the publication has been interested in publishing more of Crews' writing since 2007, the last time Crews' work appeared in the Review. Around that time, Crews sold his archives to the University of Georgia Libraries, and the Review ran an issue substantially devoted to Crews.
“The issue was well received,” said Corey. “But even if it hadn't been, I'd still have had in my head the thought that, sometime a bit down the line, we ought to go back to the archives another time to see whether we missed anything else that deserved to be out there in the public eye.”
Researchers for the journal found several items that they felt were worth publishing, and finally decided on a chapter from Crews' unpublished memoir “Take 38.”
The section, titled “We Are All of Us Passing Through,” relates an incident from long before Crews achieved national prominence, when he was just a struggling college student on hiatus from UF, in the midst of an 18-month motorcycle journey of self-discovery across the U.S. and Mexico.
“The essay concludes with Harry's noting that his antagonist in the piece was the inspiration for a main character in his first novel ... so I decided to go to the novel to determine whether any passage(s) or longer portions might be ripe for riding along,” Corey said.
A chapter from “The Gospel Singer,” released in 1968, was soon chosen for inclusion.
“The pairing of the two works is instructively interesting,” Corey said. “The writing in the ‘Gospel Singer' chapter is potent, and I'm hoping our readers might go back to the novel (and others) after reading this bit.”
Readers soon may have easier access to “The Gospel Singer” and the rest of the Crews collection if Tom Graves of The Devault-Graves Agency in Nashville is successful.
Graves, a writer and professor who has written about Crews in the past, started the agency recently with an associate in order to make long out-of-print books available on the emerging digital technologies.
Crews is the perfect candidate. Most of his books are out of print, and for his older titles, used copies can start at $50 and go up quickly on Amazon. Making them available to users of iPads, Kindles and other e-readers could introduce Crews to a new generation, Graves said.
“Basically, we want to revive every single one of his works,” he said. “Once these books are available as e-books, they are there forever.”
Though the deal must be finalized, Graves hopes to have all of Crews books available digitally by the end of 2012.
One of those books, “Car,” may find its way into theaters someday soon. A film producer purchased the rights to the story late last year.
“Car,” released in 1972, is the tale of Herman Mack, the son of a Jacksonville junk dealer, who tries to eat an entire Cadillac.
As with many of Crews' books, filmmakers have tried time and again over the years to turn “Car” into a movie. In the ‘70s, both Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda were under consideration for the lead role, but movies never materialized.
The only Crews book that did make it to the screen was “The Hawk Is Dying,” which starred Paul Giamatti and Michelle Williams, and was filmed in Gainesville in 2004.
Crews hopes this time will be different, but is unconcerned. Plagued by a number of ailments in recent years, he continues to plug away at the keyboard, when his health allows.
“The best book I got is half finished,” Crews said recently. “It's called ‘The Wrong Affair,' and, it's a kick-a-- book.”
Crews said he hopes to spend 2012 doing what he's devoted his life to: writing.
“I don't know when I'm going to stop,” he said. “I guess when I die.”