AN AMERICAN FAMILY - Harry Crews
With the miniscule fanfare of a GOLDBLOG post, Harry Crews recently released his last novella AN AMERICAN FAMILY via the small 'Blood and Guts' press, and distributed via Vagabond Books. Sure the Internet is shit, but hey, I would NEVER have known a new Crews book was out, let alone be able to buy it without the global 24-7 mail-order-catalogue that is the InterNerd (and if yr not an Americanski, buy it direct from Vagabond press, you'll get it cheaper and quicker than Amazon)..I can admit that like every other shmendrick my age, I 'heard' about Crews via that neo-riot-grrl 'project' that featured Lydia Lunch, Kim Gordon and some female wrestler(really?) called Sadie Mae. I heard the record once, found it to be nasty unlistenable dreck, but really enjoyed the liner notes by Byron Coley. I soon ordered an import copy of the only book I could get at that time A FEAST OF SNAKES, and was subsequently disturbed in the same way I was when I first heard a Jandek record (Telegraph Melts). Maybe I started in the wrong place, but I was convinced that this literature AND music was custom designed by and for seriously fucked up nihilist heroin addict art-punk motherfuckers. Yes. I started in the wrong place. Needless to say a FEAST OF SNAKES is a totally mind-fuckingly GREAT novel - truly the last great 'Southern Gothic' novel. At the time I'd just read AMERICAN PSYCHO, and FEAST not only kicked its ass, but probably punched it another asshole. It's nasty and violent and horrible, but you'll never forget it. But Harry Crews is more than some lame-ass transgressive motherfucker for the sake it, like so many 'hip' shitty one-trick-pony writers that really deserve Iranian Fatwas on them - Chuck Palahniuk, Irvine Welsh after 'Ecstasy', Poopy z Brite etc.. - are. Crews is a fantastic satirist, a moralist, a great yarn spinner, writer of 'dialogue' and really, really original. He's also horribly under-appreciated, and I still find it criminal that the God-awful Chuck Palahnishnook is one of the biggest selling 'counter culture' writers in
Now it's interesting to note how the 'Harry Crews factor' has permeated the bobular-gulcha over the years. In music circles, besides his popularity with the Nu-York-Shitty junkie-art set, some of his fans have included more commercial college-rock types like Bob Mould and Maria McKee, and he appears in some documentary that features all these nu-cunt, I mean no-Depression nu-Country types like the Handsome Family. Obviously Crews has a reasonable 'indie' or 'college hipster' type following, and it's interesting to note his forays in the flim world. He had a cameo in Sean Penn's under-rated THE INDIAN RUNNER (blew my mind when I saw it in the early 90s since I was on a massive Harry Crews bender, and had no idea he'd be in the film!) and apparently wrote something with Michael Cimino, and also wrote bits of a Sean Cunningham (Last House on the Left, Friday the 13th) shlocker the NEW KIDS, which I still haven't bothered to see. I was recently lucky to see THE HAWK IS DYING, which I was terrified would be another Sundunce shitty American indie-film, and while it went down that way, turned out to be actually not such a bad film, and totally TRUE to Harry Crews work, especially in regard to his less comic and gnarled work (ie ALL WE NEED OF HELL)..I thought we'd be lucky to get a reprint of THE HAWK IS DYING, but so far no-dice, and the film has died an inglorious (and I reckon unfair) indie-film death. If there's one failing of the film, it's probably casting Paul Giamatti as the main guy, sure he tries his butt off, but he doesn't quite cut it as a Southern bum - I guess that's all part of the cruel-capitalist machinations of getting a 'small' film by a 'not so hip these days' writer like Crews off the ground - you need a fucken 'name' actor to get an 'audience' of fuckwits that wouldn't know better unless they were at an REM or Sicker Ross gig or something.
Anyway I couldn't finish this post without posting my Crewophile 'trophies', because really Crews novels are so rare that literally become them. I only have on hardcover, funny that, the book I just yakked about. My first was FEAST OF SNAKES, the one with the white cover, then I got THE KNOCKOUT ARTIST, one of those Simon&Shuster editions with the funky art-pulp yellow (giallo!) covers. Also in this series are editions of THE GOSPEL SINGER and ALL WE NEED OF HELL. My personal fave is SCAR LOVER. MULCHING OF AMERICA is a cracker; I reckon it was one of the best literary indictments of Capitalism in Amerikka written in the 90s, no-one else did so I must be a born idiot. The CLASSIC CREWS trilogy is all good, as is FLORIDA FRENZY. BODY is fucken dynamite, CELEBRATION was so-so. My rarest is the English run of KARATE IS A THING OF THE SPIRIT that has some Twiggy look-a-like doing a terrible karate pose on the cover. I've also got GETTING NAKED WITH HARRY CREWS and PERSPECTIVES on HARRY CREWS. To round it out I even mail-orderd that documentary HARRY CREWS: GUILTY AS CHARGED, I'm still trying to find a fucken NTSC video so I can convert the fucker to DVD for posterity! Shit I'm so sad I even photocopied all of BLOOD and GRITS from the library at the University I work at!!