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Harry Crews' Blood and Grits

Posted: Jul 06, 2009

Harry Crews' Book Blood and Grits

Published in 1979, Harry CrewsBlood and Grits ranks as one of his finest collections. Harry still cranks out great work, but this book along with Feast of Snakes, Florida Frenzy, The Gypsy’s Curse and Gospel Singer represents some of his finest writing. Blood and Grits contains great stories like “A Walk In the Country”, “The Car”, “Television’s Junkyard Dog”, “Carny”, “The Trucker Militant” and one of my favorites, “The Knuckles of Saint Bronson”.

I’ve been in sporadic contact with Crews over the last several years. The last time we spoke, he wasn’t feeling so well. I worry about Crews, Paul Hemphill and Stanley Booth—real heroes. Everyone’s getting older. More about of each of these writers in the following days, but tonight I’ll leave you with a passage from the great Crews story “The Knuckles of Saint Bronson”:

“I met Bronson the first time standing beside the flatbed railroad car that housed the kitchen on the picture train. He was yelling up to the cook that he wanted a bacon-and-egg sandwich. The kitchen had a sign on it that said: “YOU CAN WHIP OUR TATERS, BUT YOU CAN’T BEAT OUR MEAT.” And another that said: “KEEP THE WEST ALIVE: BALL A COWBOY TODAY.”

“It’s just a chuckle a minute, folks, when you are around heavyweight movie people. Bronson’s publicist, a delightful and generous man by the name of Ernie Anderson, introduced me to Bronson. We shook hands, and Bronson went back to the business of getting his sandwich. Ernie took me by the sleeve and pulled me aside. “Now, don’t crowd him. For God’s sake, don’t crowd him. Because if you do, see…”

Frankly, I didn’t give a shit if he talked or not, because I was at death’s door after coming down with a severe case of drunk the night before. I’d managed to cleverly secrete a flask of medicine on my person, however, and was only looking for the right moment to get well. Bronson doesn’t drink, though—except for about one bottle of Campari every two pictures—and I didn’t want to blow the whole goddamn assignment on the first day because I needed a drink. I probably should not have had the vodka out there to start with. I’d already had to sign a release saying that if I got hurt accidentally or otherwise, I couldn’t sue the production company. But it was cold as a mother up there in the snow and wind and ice of Idaho, and I couldn’t bring myself, though, since Ernie had gone to some trouble to impress upon me Bronson’s aversion to alcohol…”

Do yourself a favor…track down a copy of Blood and Grits to find out of this story turns out. It's provides a rare degree of insight on Hollywood from a true southern writer. Until tomorrow,

James Calemine


 

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