Author Jim Harrison could’ve died today, but yesterday was also a good day to die. His “masculine fiction” contemporary, Harry Crews, “bit the bagel,” as Crews might jest, four years ago today. He probably took one look at Harrison yesterday and brusquely said, “Welcome home, blood, what took so long? Must be that short chain of yours! Death still annoys me.”
Novelist Jean Stafford once wrote that Harry Crews was “the proprietor of a Hieronymus Bosch landscape in Dixie,” but it’s a curious fact that you might have trouble finding Crew’s childhood home in the tiny town of Alma in South Georgia, where he grew up–he’d be 81 this June. Unlike practically every vaunted Southern writer you’ve ever heard tell of, there is no well-kept museum of Crews’ childhood home. This photo of a ramshackle dwelling inside the pages of Blood, Bone, and Marrow by Ted Geltner shows one of the homes Crews lived while growing up poor in rural Bacon County.It still stands today, but you have to know somebody, who knows somebody, who might be able to show you where it is (Ted Geltner knows somebody).
Here in Atlanta, one can visit the homes of Margaret Mitchell and Joel Chandler Harris, both active museums and event spaces. In Columbus, GA, one can stop by the childhood home of Carson McCullers and even hit Erskine Caldwell’s “Little Manse” in Moreland, GA on the way. Down in Milledgeville, GA, one can sit on Flannery O’Connor’s front porch at Andalusia Farm and then mosey on over to Alice Walker’s first home near Eatonton and take a driving tour. Further north in Blairsville, GA, poet Byron Herbert Reece’s childhood farm is now a museum full of his poetic inscriptions. Outside the state, even Thomas Wolfe, who couldn’t go home again, has a birthplace and museum. Faulkner has Rowan Oak in Oxford, MS. Even Tennessee Williams has a hot tin roof over his head. The list goes on, my literary friends. So, until Crews fans Kickstart a dee-luxe Crews Community Center somewhere, or the Halls of Letters sees fit to erect one near Big Hurricane Creek, where his ashes were likely scattered, according to Geltner, today’s a right fine day, on his deathiversary, to announce another home of sorts for Harry Crews: the website for the first Crews biography, Blood, Bone, and Marrow. Like Crew’s first modest spread on a tenant farmer’s land, this website’s still a work in progress and may need a board here and some caulk there, but come on in and make yourself comfortable.