I have just changed my profile picture from Flannery O'Connor to Harry Crews. Both authors were from Georgia and both wrote about freaks and mis-fits and outcasts and rejects, and with a strange and absurd, disturbed and some might even say disgusting style. In short, they are my aunt and my uncle.
It was time to move on from Flannery O'Connor. In her personal life, she was an incredibly devout Catholic, although on the surface of her writing, a strict concern for religion can just barely even be discerned. She was confident in God.
Harry Crews was not. His debut novel was very personal, called The Gospel Singer, and it follows a man who sings church hymns in the deep south like Elvis, and has as much sex as Elvis too, in the church, during service with married women and seventeen year olds alike. When Crews published it, he called his mother and told her the news and she said, "One of them fiction books you say? I never will understand why people pay good money for something they know to be a lie." Needless to say he didn't have a superior amount of support surrounding him. His father, I believe, left the family when Harry was one or two years old.
He went on, for about a decade after The Gospel Singer, to publish a book a year. He wrote about meth-heads, cockfighters and dogfighters, sex addicts and liquor store robbers, midgets and circus 'freak-shows' and people with the voice of God only to be cursed by God. He drank and quit drinking and drank again. He had a tattoo on his arm, a quote from an E.E. Cummings poem about Buffalo Bill which read on his bicep, "How do you like your blue-eyed boy, Mister Death?" I could go on and on--maybe another post.
Finally, he was one of Madonna's favorite authors, who became borderline obsessed with him for a brief period, and this reason alone is enough to go read him, and reason enough for why he is my profile picture.