Icon: Harry Crews
Writer, University of Florida professor, Gainesville, died March 28 at age 76
Editor’s note: On Jan. 27, Florida Trend’s Art Levy and Will Short Gorham interviewed Harry Crews in the novelist’s home. The 40-minute interview did not go well. Crews spoke haltingly, pausing often while he endured intense waves of pain caused by his peripheral neuropathy. Plans were made to continue the interview another day, but Crews died before that could happen. Quotes from our interview appear below along with those from two other sources: “Getting Naked with Harry Crews” (University Press of Florida, 1999), a book of Crews interviews edited by Erik Bledsoe, and a 2007 documentary film by Tyler Turkle titled Harry Crews — Survival is Triumph Enough.
[Photo: John Zeuli]
» I’ve got peripheral neuropathy. It’s a disease of the nerves that manifests itself by driving you crazy.
» A writer can’t be taught, but he can be coached.
» I was drunk every day for 30 years. Very rarely did anyone see me staggering around or anything like that. Never threw up. Never got sick. Never had a hangover. That’s probably why I turned out to be a drunk. I didn’t know what a hangover was.
» Being a writer is the only thing I remember wanting to do. I put all the energy I could into it.
» Only Christmas present I ever remember getting was a Baby Ruth candy bar. The only one I ever remember, my whole growing up. And I was very pleased to get it.
» You know, I had polio. Hell, everyone had polio then. Before Salk.
» I’ve never begun a novel that I knew how it ended. I just start and try to find out what it is I think about whatever it is I am writing about.
» My brother was fighting in Korea at the time I joined. It ended while I was on Parris Island. And we were, of course, all extremely disappointed. There’s something — and this may be a lie, or a myth or whatever — but it seems to me that when a war breaks out, all the Southern boys run down as quick as they can. Probably out of ignorance. And also because, in many instances — as was true in my case — there’s no jobs, and I had no skills.
» I didn’t do well in grade school and all that. All I did was read. When I got to the University of Florida, I was never assigned a book I hadn’t already read.
» I feel bad. I think we can say I’m going to feel bad from now until I kick out and die. There’s no relief from this. That’s the way it goes.
» Whatever I’ve done and whatever I’ve set out to do, I’ve always had one goal in mind: Get it down in language.
» I don’t think I’ve ever sold 10,000 copies of a hardcover book in my life. I finally found an audience. France. France. The French love me.
» My daddy literally worked himself to death, as a tenant farmer, as a great many men and women did. My ma says he worked himself to death at the age of 31. His heart, his whole chest, blew out like a tire blows out.
» Listen, if you want to write about all sweetness and light and that stuff, go get a job at Hallmark.
» I teach because I like it. It gives me some sense of myself when my writing’s not going well. I can go and teach and that’s pleasant. The only problem I’ve ever had with the university is the professors and the people who run it.
» Ma baked biscuits every meal, and the biscuits were made out of flour, lard and water. We had biscuits and grits and fatback, wasn’t even a streak of meat in there. That’s pretty much what we had.
[Photo: John Zeuli]
» There was very little that I would not do.
» Life now is boring, incredibly, unthinkably boring. Whatever fire I had in the loins, whatever fun I had ... yeah, I’m pretty much dead.
» I don’t think novels cause things to happen. Maybe ‘The Jungle’ caused something to happen, the meat industry and all that, passing legislation, but other than that, I mean, I don’t know.
» When I got old, I wanted to be so used up and so broken and such a husk that you could put me in the palm of your hand and blow me away.
» Back when I drank so bad, when I went anywhere to lecture or do something at a university, first thing that happened when I get off the plane is some guy handed me a glass. And the game was, ‘Let’s give Crews all the alcohol he’ll take in his hand and watch him get totally out of it and be a fool.’
» When I have those pauses, there’s no reason for them, except I’m hurting bad and I just have to wait and gut it out. It’s bothersome. It’s very bothersome.
» Writing made me the happiest. That’s what I spent my life doing, pretty much.
In case you missed it:
- Ronald ‘Winky' Wright is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Steve Spurrier, Florida Icon
- Wilson Bradshaw is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Craig Fugate is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Michael Saunders is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Joey Cornblit is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Alex Sink is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Norman Braman is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Bello Nock is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Zev Buffman is a ‘Florida Icon'
- M.J. Soileau is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Susan Benton is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Terry Stiles is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Theresa Manuel is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Dan ‘Tater' Porter is a Florida Icon
- Joe Redner is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Nicole Johnson is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ron Magill is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Artis Gilmore is a ‘Florida Icon'
- An Interview with George Billiris
- Frank Morsani is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Alto ‘Bud' Adams Jr. is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Winston Scott is a 'Florida Icon'
- Florida Icon: Carlton Ward Jr.
- Florida Icon: Mel Tillis
- Robert M. 'Bob' Beall II is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Peter Meinke - A life in poetry
- Carl Hiaasen is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Nan-Yao Su is a Florida 'Icon'
- Roland Martin is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Florida Icon: Derrick Brooks
- An interview with Annika Sorenstam
- Iconic Florida developer H. Irwin Levy
- ‘Alligator' Ron Bergeron is a Florida Icon
- Howard Schnellenberger is a Florida 'Icon'
- Florida Icon: Barbara Mainster
- Florida Icon: Walter Lanier ‘Red' Barber
- Louise Gopher is a 'Florida Icon'
- H. Lee Moffitt is a 'Florida Icon'
- Kiran Patel is a 'Florida Icon'
- 'Florida Icon' Howard C. Tibbals shares life lessons
- Alex D. Brickler is a 'Florida Icon'
- Life lessons from hockey great Phil Esposito
- Lucy Morgan is a 'Florida Icon'
- Donald Goodman is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ed Droste is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ray Ferrero Jr. - Florida Icon
- W. George Allen is a 'Florida Icon'
- Tom James is a 'Florida Icon'
- Patrick Smith is a 'Florida Icon'
- Jerry Uelsmann is a 'Florida Icon'
- John L. Parker is a 'Florida Icon'
- C.C. 'Doc' Dockery is a 'Florida Icon'
- Toni Jennings is a 'Florida Icon'
- Dave Barry is a 'Florida Icon'
- Shaquille O'Neal is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ruth Alexander is a Florida Icon
- Brian Johnson is a Florida Icon
- Florida Icon: Sam Gibbons
- Thomas 'Blue' Fulford
- Icon: Don 'Big Daddy' Garlits
- Icon: Charles E. 'Chuck' Cobb Jr.
- Icon: John DeGrove
- Icon: Charles Gray
- Icon: Burt Reynolds
- Icon: Tibor Hollo
- Icon: Gary Mormino
- Icon: Richard Gonzmart
- Icon: Bob Graham
- Icon: Ward Hall
- Icon: Eugenie Clark
- Icon: Warrick Dunn
- Icon: Arthur Rutenberg
- Icon: Chris Evert
- Icon: Preston Haskell
- Icon: Joseph Kittinger
- Icon: The Fanjul Brothers
- Icon: Romero Britto
- Icon: Steve Raymund
- Icon: Cesar L. Alvarez
- Icon: Juan 'Chi Chi' Rodriguez
- Icon: Gay Culverhouse
- Icon: Gene Leedy
- Icon: William R. Hough
- Icon: Peter Prichard
- Icon: Ed Price
- Icon: David L. Paul
- Icon: Jan Garavaglia
- Icon: Claude R. Kirk Jr.
- Icon: Don Zimmer
- Icon: Kenneth H. 'Buddy' MacKay
- Icon: Dick Vitale
- Icon: Michael Gannon
- Icon: Marcella Hazan
- Icon: Tony Little
- Icon: Wade L. Hopping
- Icon: Edgar Mitchell
- Icon: James Rosenquist
- Icon: Bob Martinez
- Icon: Arnold Palmer
- Icon: Don Shula
- Icon: Mike Peters
- Icon: Margaret D. Lowman
- Icon: Doug Williams
- Icon: Bob Butterworth
- Icon: Fred Schultz
- Icon: Eugene Patterson
- Icon: Harris Mullen
- Icon: Bill Haast
- Icon: Marion P. Hammer
- Icon: Albert Dunlap
- Icon: Joseph Woodrow Hatchett
- Icon video: Joseph Hatchett
- Icon: Talbot 'Sandy' D'Alemberte
- Icon: John Walsh
- Icon: James Robert Cade
- Icon: Nathaniel Pryor Reed
- Icon: Gus Stavros
- Icon: Betty Castor
- Icon: Mary Ann Carroll
- Icon: George Steinbrenner
- Icon: Ferdie Pacheco
- Icon: Vic Dunaway
- Icon: George Smathers
- Icon: Phyllis Apple
- Icon: Nick Bollettieri
- Icon: Harris Rosen
- Icon: Max Mayfield
- Icon: Carrie Meek
- Icon: Andres Duany
- Icon: T. Willard Fair
- Icon: Bobby Bowden
- Icon: Stetson Kennedy
- Icon: Don Francisco
- Icon: Janet Reno
- Icon: Reubin O'D. Askew
- Icon: Clyde Butcher
- Icon: Willie Gary
- Icon: Wayne Huizenga