Getting Naked with Harry Crews

Edited by Erik Bledsoe

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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.

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"A rough-hewn, candid and unflinching portrait of himself and his creative impulsives. . . . A fascinating glimpse of an important Southern writer."-- Stuart News
--Stuart News

"Though Harry Crews is known for his machismo and personal struggles with alcohol and drugs, he appears -- more often than not -- as a humorous, productive, and often compassionate novelist in Getting Naked with Harry Crews. . . . A winning assemblage of 26 interviews. . . . This is a fine book for all writers -- tatooed or not."-- Charleston Daily News
--Charleston Daily News

"Interviews with one of the great living Southern writers."-- Publishers Weekly
--Publishers Weekly

"Floridian Novelist Lets It All Hang Out"-- Village Voice
--Village Voice

"Getting Naked has plenty that the die-hard Crews fan will like. He talks often about the writers who influenced him (Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor, Flaubert, Faulkner), his philosophy of literature, and how he goes about writing ('The great, grand secret of writing is Put Your Ass on the Chair. Repeat. Put Your Ass on the Chair.')"-- Palm Beach Post
--Palm Beach Post

"These conversations are full of gems that reveal Crews' tenacious commitment to the writing life."-- Chicago Tribune
--Chicago Tribune

"Anyone who has a taste for Southern fiction or is an aspiring writer should rush to their nearest bookstore and nab this set of interviews. . . . Crews's words will pump you into literary action."-- Tampa Tribune-Times
--Tampa Tribune-Times

"These conversations are full of gems that reveal Crews' tenacious commitment to the writing life."-- Charlotte Observer
--Omaha World-Herald

"These interviews give a dimension to this man -- his drinking bouts, his love of blood sports, his passion for writing, his admiration for Graham Greene, his annual reading of Madame Bovary.-- Florida Times-Union
--Florida Times-Union

"The 26 interviews included in "Getting Naked With Harry Crews" - conducted between 1972 and 1997 - reveal a man obsessed with the craft of writing and with a low tolerance for critics who reduce his work to a collection of stories about freaks." -Tallahassee Democrat
--Tallahassee Democrat

"Even for non-fans, this collection of interviews is a wonderful source for any serious writer. It is a genuinely breathtaking look at the genesis, development, habits, and obstacles to becoming a great writer. Getting Naked with Harry Crews should be on every writer's shelf. Bledsoe has done a service to students of Southern and Georgia literature by providing a truly remarkable edited work on one of the region's most engaging characters. The book shows how arduous a task becoming a good writer is, all the while providing hope and a realistic sketch of one amazing man with an enduring voice." -Georgia Library Quarterly
--Georgia Library Quarterly

"Especially the early interviews, conducted primarily by academics, shed a great deal of light not only on Crews's creative process but also on specific novels. The University Press of Florida, which has kept the Crews collection Florida Frenzy in print, is to be commended for publishing this volume, which also includes the editor's substantial introductory overview of Crew's life and career." -Southern Quarterly
--Southern Quarterly

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