This Land Is Dry Land ... as Guthrie Sees It

By Dico, Joy Lo | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), January 27, 2013 | Go to article overview
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This Land Is Dry Land ... as Guthrie Sees It


Dico, Joy Lo, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


FICTION House of Earth By Woody Guthrie Infinitum Nihil Pounds 12.99

It is rare that the introduction is as interesting as the book it seeks to preface. But in the case of House of Earth, the foreword, written by Douglas Brinkley and Johnny Depp, is a meal in itself.

House of Earth is a previously unpublished novel by the folk singer Woody Guthrie, who wandered the Dust Bowl states of Oklahoma and Texas at the same time as John Steinbeck, in the 1930s. While Steinbeck took on the Okies, Guthrie went for the Texas Panhandle, the northern tip of the state beset by loose soil, tumbleweed, and a plague of termites.

Guthrie's story is of a husband and wife looking at the forlorn shack on rented land that is their home, and trying to figure out how to make their rickety existence more permanent. He took a decade to finish writing the novel, by which time the Second World War had intervened and America moved on. Brinkley and Depp believe he was also trying to interest Hollywood. But no film came to pass, and the manuscript languished until Depp, with his new publishing house, Infinitum Nihil, decided to revive it.

What may have put both Hollywood and publishers off is an extraordinary scene, spanning 30 pages, in which the gangly hero, Tike, gets his wife Ella Mae to put down the milk-churns and come over to the barn for a little lovin'.

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