Harry Crews : the atmosphere of failure.

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Austin, Emmit
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Middle Tennessee State University
Harry Crews is the author of eight novels, all of which are set in the New South of the 1960s and 1970s, an autobiography of his early life, a collection of magazine pieces, and a collection of nonfiction pieces and excerpts from some of his novels. Although he disparages the term "Southern Writer," he is very much a writer of the South. He was born in Georgia and lives now in Gainesville, Florida. When he talks and when he writes, Harry Crews has a strong "sense of place" for the South. Out of that "sense of place," he develops his major theme--the failure of the New South to offer its people a sense of value in its religion, rituals and ceremonies, and in its community life.
Chapter I of this study traces the influences on Crews' work from his early life in rural Georgia through his stay at the University of Florida to his exposure to literary figures, especially such "sense of place" writers as Flannery O'Connor. This chapter also shows the relationship between the writers of what has been called the Southern Renaissance and Harry Crews' work. The Southern Renaissance writers, such as Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, and William Faulkner, writing between 1930 and 1955, warned that the South was in danger of losing its regional identity because it failed to develop a "fitting religion" and sustain its traditional rites and ceremonies centered in the home and in the community. Harry Crews' novels show the devastating effects of this failure on the society.
Chapter II examines Crews' first three novels: The Gospel Singer, Naked in Garden Hills, and This Thing Don't Lead to Heaven. These novels explore the failure of religion to provide meaning in people's lives. In The Gospel Singer, the people worship the illusion of religion in a person who sings religious songs; Naked in Garden Hills is an allegory of the failure of faith; and This Thing Don't Lead to Heaven concerns the failure of religion to provide comfort in life and death situations.
Chapter III examines three novels in which characters pursue ritual exercises in attempting to find meaning in their lives. . . . (Author's abstract exceeds stipulated maximum length. Discontinued here with permission of author.) UMI.