House of Earth

“The wind of the upper flat plains/ sung a high lonesome song/ down across the blades of the dry iron grass./ Loose things moved in the wind/ but the dust lay close to the ground.” So begins Woody Guthrie’s never-published 1947 novel, the latest discovery from the amazing treasure trove of the Guthrie archives. I added the line breaks to demonstrate how incredibly lyrical Guthrie’s prose is. This is the story of Tike and Ella May, two Dust Bowl victims who, unlike those in Steinbeck’s classic Grapes of Wrath, chose to stick it out. Although the central theme is their desire to overcome their poverty as tenant farmers and build an earthen house, most of the book consists of brilliantly erotic passages and a long, vivid description of the birth of their first son. Just be sure to skip the introduction which, although erudite in its analysis of the novel, contains horrid spoilers. Read it as an afterword. Come major-award time, expect this book to be oft-nominated and probably awarded. And in 10 years, don’t be surprised to hear it compared to Grapes of Wrath and maybe even taught alongside it in the same courses. Thank you, Woody.