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

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In 2010, Ted Geltner drove to Gainesville, Florida, to pay a visit to Harry Crews and ask the legendary author if he would be willing to be the subject of a literary biography. His health rapidly deteriorating, Crews told Geltner he was on board and would even sit for interviews and tell his stories one last time. "Ask me anything you want, bud," Crews said. "But you'd bet In 2010, Ted Geltner drove to Gainesville, Florida, to pay a visit to Harry Crews and ask the legendary author if he would be willing to be the subject of a literary biography. His health rapidly deteriorating, Crews told Geltner he was on board and would even sit for interviews and tell his stories one last time. "Ask me anything you want, bud," Crews said. "But you'd better do it quick." The result is Blood, Bone, and Marrow, the first full-length biography of one of the most unlikely figures in twentieth-century American literature, a writer who emerged from a dirt-poor South Georgia tenant farm and went on to create a singularly unique voice of fiction. With books such as Scar Lover, Body, and Naked in Garden Hills, Crews opened a new window into southern life, focusing his lenson the poor and disenfranchised, the people who skinned the hogs and tended the fields, the "grits," as Crews affectionately called his characters and himself. He lived by a code of his own design, flouting authority and baring his soul, and the stories of his whiskey-and-blood-soaked lifestyle created a myth to match any of his fictional creations. His outlaw life, his distinctive voice and the context in which he lived combine to form the elements of a singularly compelling narrative about an underappreciated literary treasure.


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In 2010, Ted Geltner drove to Gainesville, Florida, to pay a visit to Harry Crews and ask the legendary author if he would be willing to be the subject of a literary biography. His health rapidly deteriorating, Crews told Geltner he was on board and would even sit for interviews and tell his stories one last time. "Ask me anything you want, bud," Crews said. "But you'd bet In 2010, Ted Geltner drove to Gainesville, Florida, to pay a visit to Harry Crews and ask the legendary author if he would be willing to be the subject of a literary biography. His health rapidly deteriorating, Crews told Geltner he was on board and would even sit for interviews and tell his stories one last time. "Ask me anything you want, bud," Crews said. "But you'd better do it quick." The result is Blood, Bone, and Marrow, the first full-length biography of one of the most unlikely figures in twentieth-century American literature, a writer who emerged from a dirt-poor South Georgia tenant farm and went on to create a singularly unique voice of fiction. With books such as Scar Lover, Body, and Naked in Garden Hills, Crews opened a new window into southern life, focusing his lenson the poor and disenfranchised, the people who skinned the hogs and tended the fields, the "grits," as Crews affectionately called his characters and himself. He lived by a code of his own design, flouting authority and baring his soul, and the stories of his whiskey-and-blood-soaked lifestyle created a myth to match any of his fictional creations. His outlaw life, his distinctive voice and the context in which he lived combine to form the elements of a singularly compelling narrative about an underappreciated literary treasure.

30 review for Blood, Bone, and Marrow: A Biography of Harry Crews

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jason Hodges

    This is a very good read!!! Pick up a copy today!!!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hal Brodsky

    Harry Crews was a larger than life figure who played a key role in the development of "Southern Literature" in the second half of the 20th Century. By authoring 16 novels that came to define "Southern Gothic Literature", one of the best autobiographies ever written, and a series of insightful articles published in Playboy and Esquire (among others), Crews , the son of a Georgia sharecropper came to national attention in the late 1960's, 70's and 80's. Unfortunately for Crews, his excessive behav Harry Crews was a larger than life figure who played a key role in the development of "Southern Literature" in the second half of the 20th Century. By authoring 16 novels that came to define "Southern Gothic Literature", one of the best autobiographies ever written, and a series of insightful articles published in Playboy and Esquire (among others), Crews , the son of a Georgia sharecropper came to national attention in the late 1960's, 70's and 80's. Unfortunately for Crews, his excessive behavior, drug taking, and alcoholism became part of his legend even as he befriended celebrities of that period including Charles Bronson, Shawn Penn, and Madonna. This footnoted biography is well written and well researched, and to a large degree ties together Harry Crews's professional and social life and includes some relevant literary criticism, although for some reason this is primarily focused on his earlier novels. Best of all, this biography reads like a story, making it much more readable than a typical dry biography. This is fitting because , as most of us who knew him can attest, there was little dry and boring about Harry Crews.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Richard Gilbert

    As readable as a novel, this biography of Harry Crews brings to life his persistence and achievement as a writer. Crews, a legendary drunk and brawler, was a serious and powerful writer, and makes a character as absorbing as his many fictional ones. Geltner illuminates Crews's feeling and ethos of remaining a lifelong outsider. I learned much I didn't know from reading Crews's memoir and articles about him, including more sources of his apparent pain. Especially the sexual assaults he suffered a As readable as a novel, this biography of Harry Crews brings to life his persistence and achievement as a writer. Crews, a legendary drunk and brawler, was a serious and powerful writer, and makes a character as absorbing as his many fictional ones. Geltner illuminates Crews's feeling and ethos of remaining a lifelong outsider. I learned much I didn't know from reading Crews's memoir and articles about him, including more sources of his apparent pain. Especially the sexual assaults he suffered as a boy, hitchhiking, and at the hands of his older brother. Crews comes off as a tortured man who managed to save himself through work that gave to the world a gift.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Craig Pittman

    This is an amazing, engrossing biography of the ultimate Florida man writer, Harry Crews. It's not a quick read, by any means, because there are stunning anecdotes on nearly every page that each take a while to digest. I think it took me a couple of months to get through it all, but it was well worth it. Crews was the cantankerous, frequently unhinged creative writing teacher at the University of Florida for years, a position he earned by cranking out novel after novel full of freaks and obsessiv This is an amazing, engrossing biography of the ultimate Florida man writer, Harry Crews. It's not a quick read, by any means, because there are stunning anecdotes on nearly every page that each take a while to digest. I think it took me a couple of months to get through it all, but it was well worth it. Crews was the cantankerous, frequently unhinged creative writing teacher at the University of Florida for years, a position he earned by cranking out novel after novel full of freaks and obsessive wingnuts, starting with "The Gospel Singer." He wrote about snake handlers, hawk trainers, karate competitors, body builders, old people and even a guy who eats an entire car. In Ted Geltner's masterful bio, though, Crews comes across as far more than just that caricature of the Florida wild man. He was a sickly and, quite possibly, abused child in Georgia who grew up in extreme poverty. A childhood illness made him sympathize with the freaks of the world more than anyone else, and his rural upbringing made his later success into something of a curse as it pulled him from his roots. He was a binge-drunk who got into fights he couldn't win, an academic suspicious of academia, a writer who was a master behind the typewriter but a mess everywhere else. Geltner, clearly a fan, does not shy away from the scenes that show Crews at his lowest and worst ebb. But he also shows him in times when he was riding high -- for instance, traveling along with Madonna and Sean Penn to see the Tyson-Spinks fight, or hanging out with Charles Bronson on the set of the movie "Breakheart Pass." He tells in excruciatingly funny detail the story of how Crews reported and wrote about an Alaskan oil boom town, saving the punchline for when he turns in his expenses to his editor. Geltner enjoyed great access to Crews before he died, and made good use of the Crews archive of letters and other documents at the University of Georgia, giving us a rare insight into the tortured soul whose one abiding rule for anyone who wanted to be a writer was a simple phrase: Put your ass in the chair.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jason Robinson

    Crews was not an admirable character- often drunken and violent, but none-the-less very talented. He was made in the Hemingway/ Bukowski mode of the typical alcoholic/ tortured writer-- I want to think that it was his imagination that won out on the page. I like to read his stuff and read about him, but I am glad I didn't know him personally. He was also a professor at the University of Florida for many years and was known for his wild antics.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    I first heard of Harry Crews from Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon in 1987, who suggested reading "A Feast of Snakes" first. I did and subsequently found all go his books in hardcover at the Long Beach, CA library. Before reading a second one, I looked at each dust jacket fold for his photo, and I was amazed at the remarkable difference from book to book. So I read them in succession. I was working with Sonic Youth at the time. That year, the band played in Gainesville FL for the first time, and I often I first heard of Harry Crews from Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon in 1987, who suggested reading "A Feast of Snakes" first. I did and subsequently found all go his books in hardcover at the Long Beach, CA library. Before reading a second one, I looked at each dust jacket fold for his photo, and I was amazed at the remarkable difference from book to book. So I read them in succession. I was working with Sonic Youth at the time. That year, the band played in Gainesville FL for the first time, and I often worked with a local cable tv music program "Double Helix" to promote band videos. I pitched them on having Kim interview Harry and we set it up. The best part of it was that I spoke with Harry a number of times by phone about Tony Joe White, Faulkner, Larry Brown, Madison Jones, Kerouac, and the funny logistics I had to arrange for the interview to happen. The interview was fine, but he hated the music and called me the next day telling me never to call him again with shitty music projects. About a week later, he sent me a b&w promo photo of him unsigned and without a note. So, I could not pout this book down. It is a warm, funny and gut wrenching portrait of true master.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ben Brackett

    I think the biggest complaint I had about this was Harry Crews was such a larger than life character, but all his shenanigans were described in a pretty tame an undramatic manner, which didn't really give me much. I felt like I got far more out of and a better understanding of him reading a collection of some of his essays from Grits or of course Childhood. Another complaint I have is the chronology would sometimes jump to follow a topic rather than his life in order, which was confusing. Also, I think the biggest complaint I had about this was Harry Crews was such a larger than life character, but all his shenanigans were described in a pretty tame an undramatic manner, which didn't really give me much. I felt like I got far more out of and a better understanding of him reading a collection of some of his essays from Grits or of course Childhood. Another complaint I have is the chronology would sometimes jump to follow a topic rather than his life in order, which was confusing. Also, sometimes events were referred later in the bio passingly that sounded like they should have been at least been mentioned earlier. Probably wouldn't recommend reading this unless you are a really, really hardcore Crews fan. You get a better sense of the man from his writing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Guy Salvidge

    This is an excellent biography of one of the more influential US authors in recent times. Most authors' lives aren't actually that entertaining. Not so Crews! Geltner brings the humour and danger of the man to life in vivid fashion. This is a well written book with short chapters and some interesting photos (although I'd have liked to see a photo of Crews' sons, too). Full review here: https://guysalvidge.wordpress.com/201... This is an excellent biography of one of the more influential US authors in recent times. Most authors' lives aren't actually that entertaining. Not so Crews! Geltner brings the humour and danger of the man to life in vivid fashion. This is a well written book with short chapters and some interesting photos (although I'd have liked to see a photo of Crews' sons, too). Full review here: https://guysalvidge.wordpress.com/201...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Crews sure seemed like a jerk. I am not going to give him a pass because of a difficult childhood.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Very enjoyable and well written and researched bio of an author that not everyone is going to admire and enjoy. It makes me want to re-read Crews' work.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jennine

    An outstanding biography about a phenomenal writer. Does justice to the great man himself.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ned Andrew Solomon

    I read about 85 pages of this biography and then set it aside as I focused on something "shinier". Months later I returned to it and in a few successive days completed this wonderfully insightful tome about the life and career of one my favorite authors, Harry Crews. Crews was a prolific writer of mostly fiction. In his most productive years he was turning out a novel a year, committed to a morning routine of getting down at least 500 words in his current project. Although he was far from success I read about 85 pages of this biography and then set it aside as I focused on something "shinier". Months later I returned to it and in a few successive days completed this wonderfully insightful tome about the life and career of one my favorite authors, Harry Crews. Crews was a prolific writer of mostly fiction. In his most productive years he was turning out a novel a year, committed to a morning routine of getting down at least 500 words in his current project. Although he was far from successful as a husband and a father, and only marginally successful as a professor, he was 100% devoted to his writing. It appears that individual fans of Crews have their favorite novels. I began with A Feast of Snakes, which blew my mind, and would rank a much later book, Body, as his most accomplished work of fiction - though I have yet to make it through all of his titles. Most readers, including myself, think his memoir, A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, is one the finest autobiographies ever published. It is outstanding. His subject matter is, by turns, funny, frightening, grotesque, violent, poignant, dark and explicitly sexual. Not for everyone by any means, but he has drawn to him a loyal readership that appreciates his excellent prose and fascinating point of view, despite the sometimes unsavory plot lines and characters. Geltner has undertaken an exhaustive and I imagine exhausting project here, and Crews aficionados will be generously rewarded with detailed examinations of the events surrounding Crews' writing and publishing trials and tribulations, and the relationships that kept him afloat throughout his frequently self-destructive life, fueled by alcoholic binges, street and prescription drug abuse, and the propensity to land in a fist fight while defending some perceived wrong. The author called upon a bevy of living resources to help tell this story, and I commend his tremendous efforts in bringing awareness to this never-dull character.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    Really great, comprehensive biography of on of the most under-rated geniuses of American fiction. Whilst Crews books are quite pulpy in nature, his caustic, comic and instense vision of America is unparalled. Geltner is an excellent writer, and goes into Crews life in great detail. Crews worked hard from a poor background, to become a true American intellectual, as a lecturer he inspired thousands of budding (and failed) writers, but throughout his life was completely committed to his art as an Really great, comprehensive biography of on of the most under-rated geniuses of American fiction. Whilst Crews books are quite pulpy in nature, his caustic, comic and instense vision of America is unparalled. Geltner is an excellent writer, and goes into Crews life in great detail. Crews worked hard from a poor background, to become a true American intellectual, as a lecturer he inspired thousands of budding (and failed) writers, but throughout his life was completely committed to his art as an artist and importantly as a teacher. It was interesting that he was quite 'successful' during the late 60s and throughout the 70s, to the extent that Elvis was interested in being the 'gospel singer', Tom Jones bought the rights to the novel (!), and he was often hired by Hollywood to write scripts that sadly never eventuated, he worked quite extensively with Michael Cimino. He also has a regular gig as a staff writer for Playboy magazine, which would have added to his counter-cultural cache. He had a colourful, often sad life, burdened by his guilt for not being a responsible father. He seemed to self-medicate his guilt with a shocking alcohol habit, coupled with copious pot, coke, meth and occasional heroin use, but his drinking was the biggest burden on his life. He was also a fitness freak! Anyway, the works speak for themselves, and the mysterious sequel to his classic memoir 'A childhood' is the 'Rosebud' in this great, great biography.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Debra Harrison

    This book arrived yesterday and after dinner, I sat down to read - anticipating an hour or two of reading. I could not put this book down. I read 'til 4:30 am and got up to finish the last chapter this morning! I have long been a "fan" of Harry Crews and was looking forward to this biography. The author, Ted Geltner, did a superb job with this biography. He takes the complicated, likable, drunken, bar fighting (he actually would fight just about anywhere despite usually being on the losing side This book arrived yesterday and after dinner, I sat down to read - anticipating an hour or two of reading. I could not put this book down. I read 'til 4:30 am and got up to finish the last chapter this morning! I have long been a "fan" of Harry Crews and was looking forward to this biography. The author, Ted Geltner, did a superb job with this biography. He takes the complicated, likable, drunken, bar fighting (he actually would fight just about anywhere despite usually being on the losing side of most fights), genius, author Harry Crews and skillfully takes us forward and backward through Crews life with great skill. Even if I was not already familiar with Harry Crews, I would love this book. It is well written, engaging, at times disturbing. I recommend this book highly. If you are not familiar with the incredible "Southern Gothic" work of Crews - read this book and then go out and get every book Crews ever wrote. He has been compared to Faulkner and O'Connor and other great writers. Not for the faint of heart. Some blood, lots of booze, drugs, confrontation, and pain with a full measure of pure genius... this book tells the story of a great writer very well.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    This is such a life story that, once completed, I want to return and reread from the beginning. I'm going to seek out a copy of Crews' memoir, A Childhood. A panel discussion with the author at Margaret Mitchell House in Midtown Atlanta takes place May 17, 2017; info, here: https://www.facebook.com/events/37267... There is a lot of bad behavior all around here, and trauma, increasingly from Crews himself, and the author wades in with a pretty even hand, it seems to me. I want to know more about f This is such a life story that, once completed, I want to return and reread from the beginning. I'm going to seek out a copy of Crews' memoir, A Childhood. A panel discussion with the author at Margaret Mitchell House in Midtown Atlanta takes place May 17, 2017; info, here: https://www.facebook.com/events/37267... There is a lot of bad behavior all around here, and trauma, increasingly from Crews himself, and the author wades in with a pretty even hand, it seems to me. I want to know more about fellow Creative Writing prof Smith Kirkpatrick abandoning his office at UF to pigeons. I wondered if author Geltner encountered singer/songwriter and UF writing teacher Don Grooms before his death, mid-1990s. There is a lot of Gainesville, Florida and North Florida in this book, a place I loved to visit. But I have missed Crews up until this point, and now he is fully on my radar screen. Highly recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ron Hefner

    Reading the details of this brilliant writer's tragic life is every bit as unnerving and captivating as reading his novels. Knowing the details of the pain and tragedy in Harry's life reveals a lot of insight into his fiction. Ted Geltner, a former writer for the Gainesville Sun who knew Harry for years, deserves some kind of literary prize for his accomplishment. He knocked it out of the ball park.

  17. 5 out of 5

    josé almeida

    bela biografia de um dos grandes autores americanos do final do séc. xx. fica-se a perceber melhor o homem, que era complicado para dizer apenas uma palavra, e muitas das suas motivações enquanto escritor. e conclui-se que a sua própria vida poderia mesmo ter sido uma novela por si escrita - com um daqueles personagens maiores que qualquer ficção.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I am so glad I found out about Harry Crews, but the book got a little long in the tooth. Harry's story is great and I can't wait to read his books. Why 3 vs 4? The story became too repetitious. I understand appreciate that it was Harry's life and it had to be told, but it was too much.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Renberg

    Well researched and well written. Mr. Crews is definitely larger than life and a huge throwback. Would have liked more insight into each of his works as some seemed to get short shrift. Nice read on an, in my opinion, overlooked southern writer.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brian Fagan

    Excellent biography of an underrated talent.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Caleb

    The only Crews biography we'll ever need.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lenny

    T The sad and unfortunate life of Harry Crews. All he ever wanted to be is a successful author. He wrote many nonfiction books. Gained some personal notoriety but he drank too much.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zach Werbalowsky

    A great biography. I have not read all of Crews novels and such but this is a great look into the man behind the novels.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    2.5 instead of 3. _Blood, Bone, and Marrow_ is one of the first bios about author Harry Crews, a Georgia native that specialized in the Southern grotesque. Stemming from biographer Ted Geltner's personal encounters with Crews, this book works more as a comprehensive look at Crews's background & output as a writer than as a critical deconstruction of his books in context of his life. I was curious to see how someone would take on the mythos of Harry Crews & humanize this wrecking-ball of a writer. 2.5 instead of 3. _Blood, Bone, and Marrow_ is one of the first bios about author Harry Crews, a Georgia native that specialized in the Southern grotesque. Stemming from biographer Ted Geltner's personal encounters with Crews, this book works more as a comprehensive look at Crews's background & output as a writer than as a critical deconstruction of his books in context of his life. I was curious to see how someone would take on the mythos of Harry Crews & humanize this wrecking-ball of a writer. One thing that works in Geltner's favor is the even journalistic tone that will help readers stomach some of the harsher incidents in Crews's life. However, some of the structural elements of the book drag down the narrative. These flaws can range from minor establishing details (in describing Harry's wedded suburban bliss in the 70s, Geltner confuses James Taylor's & Carole King's versions of "You've Got a Friend") to prioritizing specific events in a timeline (Crews was promiscuous & there is a struggle to understand who he's currently with & why the relationship is important at the time). Crews's own quotes in the book also do him a disservice as his colorful dialect dies on the page & sounds like piecemeal ramblings. But even with these flaws, _Marrow_ is an accessible introduction to readers unfamiliar with Crews or his work. Perhaps it will serve to move this cult author into the mainstream.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Franc

    Essential reading for any Crews fan. Geltner manages the difficult job of capturing the right tone. It also assumes you've read his staggeringly good childhood memoir, A Childhood: The Biography of a Placeand so it skims over these years. So make sure you read Crew's memoir before reading this biography -- actually make sure you read it before you read any other book. Essential reading for any Crews fan. Geltner manages the difficult job of capturing the right tone. It also assumes you've read his staggeringly good childhood memoir, A Childhood: The Biography of a Placeand so it skims over these years. So make sure you read Crew's memoir before reading this biography -- actually make sure you read it before you read any other book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    HARRY CREWS - AN AMAZING LIFE FULL OF PERSONAL TRAGEDIES AND HARDSHIPS...WROTE ABOUT PEOPLE MOST WILL NEVER ENCOUNTER...GELTNER'S BIO IS TOP NOTCH AND A WELCOME ADDITION TO MY BOOK SHELVES

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Sopinsky

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joe Thomas

  29. 5 out of 5

    peggy ann kelly

  30. 5 out of 5

    Allie Comer

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