Books: Like It Was

A CHILDHOOD: THE BIOGRAPHY OF A PLACE

by Harry Crews

Harper & Row; 171 pages; $8.95

Marvin Molar, who walks on his hands and can balance on a finger; Herman Mack, who eats an entire car; Joe Lon Mackey, a homicidal sadist. This gallery of grotesques could only have been invented by Harry Crews, a Southern gothic novelist who often makes William Faulkner look pastoral by comparison.

In A Childhood, Crews turns to non-fiction and grants his landscape something it never had before — credibility. The place is Georgia; the time, the Depression, when "there...

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