Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Birthday Book of the Day: Harry Crews' Scar Lover, 1st ed.

Today’s the 81st birthday of the writer Harry Crews, and we’re celebrating:

scar lover.jpg

Crews, Harry, Scar Lover (Poseidon Press/Simon & Schuster, 1st ed, 1st printing, 1992). ISBN 0-671-74489-5. A man in Jacksonville, avoiding his past, his family gone, is slowly drawn back into life by a good woman. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. Rare copy of a critically-acclaimed writer’s work; the singer Maria McKee wrote a song based on it. Crews dedicated Scar Lover to actor Sean Penn, who filmed another Crews novel, The Indian Runner. HBB price: $45 obo.

Imagine, if you can, a cross between Erskine Caldwell, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner and Carson McCullers. Imagine him, next, a frequently drunk, profane ex-Marine who said he grew up in “the hookworm and rickets belt” of South Georgia. If you can conjure the likes of that, then you’ll feel right at home in the works of the novelist Harry Eugene Crews (1935-2012).

His family, and all his new neighbors as they moved, once a year, from one played out sharecropper farm to another, were so poor and ignorant most others who were poor and ignorant would have gazed on them, scratched their heads in wonder, and said, “Really?”

His childhood reading was mostly the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. Besides owning all the cool stuff in the world, they were astonishingly clean and happy-looking. At five, he survived a bout with polio, his legs drawn up behind him, racking him in spasms, as relatives, gawkers and faith healers consulted on the case.

After he got his legs back, he managed to fall into a cauldron of scalding water used to sear the hair off hog carcasses, and lived.

Crews got the hell out of Dodge at seventeen. After three years in the Marines, he got a BA in literature and an MA in education at the University of Florida, where he studied with the Southern Agrarians novelist Andrew Lytle.

Even by the lurid standard of postwar Southern Gothic, Crews’ work was weird. He was 36 when his first novel was published. Margalit Fox wrote of it in his New York Times obit,

“The Gospel Singer,” published in 1968, [was] about a traveling evangelist who meets a lurid fate in a Georgia town, features characters of the sort that would people his dozen later novels: sideshow freaks, an escaped lunatic and a sociopath or two.

“You don’t intend to make a career out of midgets, do you?” Mr. Crews’s wife asked him early in his writing life.

Indeed he did. Besides midgets, later novels feature a 600-pound man who consumes titanic quantities of the diet drink Metrecal (“Naked in Garden Hills,” 1969); a woman who sings tenderly to her dead husband’s skull (“Scar Lover,” 1992); and, perhaps most famously, a man who eats an automobile — a 1971 Ford Maverick, to be exact — four ounces in a sitting (“Car,” 1972).

Crews and his wife married and divorced twice in a decade. They had two sons, and one drowned when he was four.

With articles in men’s magazines like Playboy and Esquire, Crews built following. Margalit Fox wrote,

Though his books captivated many reviewers, they were not the stuff of best-seller lists, in part because they bewildered some readers and repelled others. But they attracted a cadre of fans so fiercely devoted that the phrase “cult following” seems inadequate to describe their ardor...Despite their teeming decadence, or more likely because of it, Mr. Crews’s novels betray a fundamental empathy, chronicling his characters’ search for meaning in a dissolute, end-stage world. His ability to spin out a dark, glittering thread from this tangle of souls gave him a singular voice that could make his prose riveting.

In addition to his journalism, Crews published fifteen novels, three collection of essays, and a memoir of his childhood. A rock band was named for him, and several others wrote songs based on his work. One of his books, The Indian Runner, was made into a movie by Sean Penn.

He quit drinking in the 1980s. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. “I had an ex-wife and I had an ex-kid and I had an ex-dog and I had an ex-house and I’m an ex-drunk,” he told The Times in 2006. “I’ve supported whores and dopers and drunks and bartenders. Thank God I don’t do that anymore.”

"Listen,” he told one of his last interviewers, “if you want to write about all sweetness and light and that stuff, go get a job at Hallmark."


Henry Bemis Books is one man’s attempt to bring more diversity and quality to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg market of devoted readers starved for choices. Our website is at www.henrybemisbookseller.blogspot.com. Henry Bemis Books is also happy to entertain reasonable offers on items in inventory; for pricing on this or others items, kindly private message us. Shipping is always free; local buyers are welcome to drop by and pick up their purchases at our location off Peachtree Road in Northwest Charlotte if they like.

What’s your favorite social media outlet? We’re blogging at www.henrybemisbookseller.blogspot.com. We tweet as Henry Bemis Books. Have you liked us on Facebook yet? Henry Bemis Books is there too. And Google+!

#Fiction #HarryCrews #Birthdays #FirstEditions #HenryBemisBooks #Charlotte

No comments:

Post a Comment

We enjoy hearing from visitors! Please leave your questions, thoughts, wish lists, or whatever else is on your mind.