Blood, Bone, and Marrow
A Biography of Harry Crews
“Brilliantly renders the life of the late writer Harry Crews . . . It captures the wild spirit of an unflinching American writer.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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 lens on 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.
“Harry Crews led a big, strange, sad and somehow very American life. It is well told here.”—The New York Times
Geltner brilliantly renders the life of the late writer Harry Crews (1935 2012) in this well-researched and vivid biography. It captures the wild spirit of an unflinching American writer from his early years in impoverished Bacon County, Ga. (which Crews devastatingly captured in his most beloved book, A Childhood), to his years as an esteemed but volatile faculty member in the University of Florida's creative writing program. In just two decades, from the 1960s to the 1980s, Crews went from working as a junior college composition teacher to being a friend of Madonna and featured writer for Playboy. Geltner traces much of the inner pain in Crews's life back to his tense relationship with his brother, Hoyett; the suspicion that his father was not his biological parent; and the shocking death by drowning of his young son. Geltner deftly examines each of Crews's books and, without glossing over his alcoholism, shows that the hard living for which Crews was known did not break his ability to write. His discipline and respect for the art were reflected in the motto displayed above his desk: "Get Your Ass on the Chair." Geltner proves that Crews was not just a great "Southern Gothic" writer, but a great American one, too.