There are six writers who made me want to become a writer: Richard Yates, Philip K. Dick, Bukowski, Kerouac, Henry Miller, and Harry Crews. I’ve read everything I could by him. Back in the nineties, my then-girlfriend had a friend in his writing class in Gainesville, FL. We made the trek down there from New York and I sat in on a class. He hobbled into the class, could barely walk, his body carrying the abuse of ten lifetimes, and he said he was delirious with a fever. So the class only lasted ten minutes, but he signed all of my books, and it was a great experience all in all.
My dad discovered him first. As a kid, he brought home A Feast of Snakes, and it went on from there. He sent Crews his novel, and Crews gave this quote: “Compelling, memorable, and one of the best reads I’ve had in years.” That letter is framed in his office. I sent him my own novel when it was done, but didn’t have the same luck.
He once said something that I found privately devastating. He said: fiction should never be political. So I’ve totally ignored him in that respect. But his fearlessness is something to aspire to, always. So, thanks, Harry Crews, and RIP.
This quote from his NY Times obit says it:
The literary world needs its outsiders and outlaws, now more than ever, and with Mr. Crews’s passing there are very, very few of them left.