Monday, September 13, 2010

A Harry Crews Reader

But I remained convinced in my belief that all anybody needed to develop as a writer was access to a good library and the willingness to play fast and loose with his life, because make no mistake about it, by the time a person even moderately masters any art form, it is almost too late to do anything else.
--Harry Crews--

A huge part of being a writer is being a reader. On my quest to become a better writer, I`ve tried to immerse myself only in good writing. One of the ways I do this is by tracking down books by authors that my mentor, Peter Christopher (aka PC), liked reading.

I also try to find books by southern writers because--for some crazy reason--my voice is really southern when I write. I don`t hear a twang in the language of my thoughts, but it always comes out on paper.

I transcribed a lecture by PC for a job I had in the Writing Department at GSU a couple of years ago. In the lecture, he mentioned some of the writers that he worked with at a certain writing workshop. Harry Crews was one of them. I did a little research and discovered that Crews is from Georgia!

I bought Classic Crews: A Harry Crews Reader, which contains the novels Car and The Gypsy`s Curse, his memoir A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, and a handful of essays.

Even his introduction to the collection was inspirational. He said that he was just a regular man who wanted to write, so he did it. He grew up in the woods of Bacon County, Georgia, back when the world was a lot more vicious and self-governing, and he wrote to try and face his demons. He wrote to understand his childhood. His memoir was honest and intelligent.

His fiction was absurd and hilarious in the way that only unplanned, free writing can be. No forced plot lines, no fear in where the story will lead. It goes where it wants to go, and you just sit back and enjoy it.

His philosophy on writing paralleled that of PC. PC taught that "Writing does not require intelligence, looks, friends, money, education. It requires what the least of us possesses: a human heart willing to speak, a heart speaking its truths."

Books like these make me feel honored to be a part of the writer`s world, and make me determined to live the writer`s life. I have a lot of free time at work this week, so I have no excuses. I have to let my heart speak, even if it speaks in a southern accent.