House of Earth

House-of-Earth_2480981eHouse of Earth
by Woodie Guthrie
2013 (written in 1947)  288 pages
read by Will Patton  6h 36m
rating:  9

A long introduction written by Johnny Depp and Douglas Brinkley (also read by them) prefaces the actual novel.  It’s an excellent intro – no spoilers,  just background –  concerning the origins, meaning, discovery, publication issues etc. of Guthrie’s only completed novel, ” …a powerful portrait of dust bowl America.  It is the story of an ordinary couple’s dreams of a better life and their search for love and meaning in a corrupt world.”

(I put a large image of the cover because Woodie Guthrie painted the original.)

Life was hard in the Texas Panhandle during the dustbowl,  Great Depression,  locust-invasion,  dry pneumonia ailments and banker-foreclosures.   This is the story of one couple, Tike and Ella May Hamlin who work as sharecroppers bigbfgwoodystruggling against too many odds,  from the weather to the greedy speculators, who make a sham of their desire to succeed – to put down roots.   The dream of building an adobe home,  a “house of earth,” which will protect them from the elements retreats further into the distance.  So maybe because of that – or maybe because this is just who they are,  they turn to each other in lovemaking for the only comfort available.

So Ella gets pregnant and the baby is born in the middle of a blizzard with Blanche,  a mid-wife / nurse,  there for assistance.  The three individuals stuck in a blow-down shack make a very interesting situation and combination.    Tike is perpetually womanizing but rails against all of it – especially the fact that the farmers can’t get a way to own their own land – very anti-capitalist.  Ella laughs him off – out of it – something – and Blanche turns serious when it’s called for.

There’s a lot of graphic sex in this book – but it’s of a very earthy and loving variety,  metaphorical – the prose is lush and lyrical and of the earth,  true to the rhythms of the country people of the Panhandle.  The descriptions of the setting are incredible – nature – like the sex.

One of my very favorite songs is “This Land is Your Land” by Woodie Guthrie – House of Earth was one inspiration for the book.    (Lyrics)  YouTube

Reviews:

Paste Magazine  (excellent)
New York Times  (also excellent)
Telegraph

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