Blood and Grits by Harry Crews
Until I took a look at some of the authors and titles that Maggie had listed on her blog as suggested reads for the Southern Reading Challenge 3 this year, I had never heard of Harry Crews. However, Crews’ non-fiction book, Blood and Grits, seemed a logical choice for me because I’m a non-fiction reader for the most part, I’m from the South and I already know what grits are. Plus, the juxtaposition of those two words is pretty stark, so I was hooked from the start. That image of red blood and white grits flew out the window, though, once I started reading this book. It just goes to show ya’ that you don’t always know what you think you do.
In Southern vernacular, a Grit is usually a fellow Southerner. He can be a tough and uncompromising realist, possess an abrasive personality, be a sumbitch or even a shit. But we usually love him anyway because he’s a real son-of-a-bitch. If there’s one thing a Southerner can’t tolerate, it’s puttin’ on airs. And trust me, you won’t find any of that here. If you want a pretty little story all wrapped up in a bow, don’t read Blood and Grits. And if you want to read about people who treat each other with respect, you’ll want to skip this book.
Each chapter of Blood and Grits is a stand-alone story, originally published in Playboy or Esquire, with Crews as the narrator as well as participant. The settings are mostly in the South although one of the stories takes place in Valdez, Alaska, and the time frame is the 70s. If you’re thinkin’ trippin’ on acid, ridin’ a big rig while yakkin’ on a CB radio, or watchin’ Big Oil install their big oil pipeline in Alaska, you’re ready for Crews’ stories.
Just remember, though, that things aren’t always what we think they are. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. I even had to read many of these stories aloud to my husband because I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. I would say that Crews, at least with Blood and Grits, is a man writing for men. But you don’t have to be a man to enjoy these stories or to recognize talent when you see it. Crews is now at the top of my list of authors that are too good to pass up. This man knows how to tell a story. And you don’t want to miss these.