House of Earth.

Author:Guthrie, Woody
Position:Book review

By Woody Guthrie, edited by Douglas Brinkley and Johnny Depp

Woody Guthrie, the iconic American folk musician, singer-songwriter, and champion of the proletariat, wrote this novel in 1946 and 1947. The manuscript was discovered recently at the University of Tulsa.


THE STORY: Tike (Guthrie's alter ego) and Ella May Hamlin, two hardscrabble Dust Bowl farmers in the Texas panhandle, are simply trying to survive in their dilapidated, one-room wooden shack, owned by a greedy bank and a big lumber company. Ella May, pregnant, cannot conceive giving birth in this ramshackle environment, but she has no choice. One day, Tike receives a book from the government about how to construct a sturdier adobe house, made from the land itself, and he starts to espouse the benefits of adobe. With the pamphlet as his Bible, he obsesses over how to pursue his and Ella May's dreams of a better life amid an inclement, unpredictable environment and a corrupt, capitalist society.

Harper. 288 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 9780062248398

Minneapolis Star Tribune ****

"Just as remarkable is the sound Guthrie's prose conjures up. ... House of Earth is well constructed, like a good song or house should be, but it's also a bit flawed and unruly, exactly the way American literature has always been." EMILY CARTER

Cleveland Plain Dealer ****

"What little plot the novel has is not complicated, but it's enough upon which to hang screeds against bankers and capitalists (this is Woody Guthrie, after all), private ownership of land, politicians and greed. ... It likely will not enter into the hearts of Americans as have 'This Land Is Your Land' and other Guthrie songs, and it is not, contrary to the hints in Brinkley and Depp's introduction, much comparable to works of D.H. Lawrence or John Steinbeck. Except for the sex and Okies, respectively." MARK GAMIN

Christian Science Monitor ***

"The book swings back and forth between an earthy, lived-in tone, full of good-natured teasing and the slang and rhythms of Guthrie's home, and a more pedantic nature, with the two main characters sounding like mouthpieces for Guthrie's beliefs about capitalism and farming. ... The likelihood of its becoming a classic of American literature is less than one might have hoped." LISA WEIDENFELD

Ft. Worth Star Telegram ***

"He has a poetic way with words. The scenes he conjures up have a dreamlike quality. But then he's...

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