House of Earth
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House of Earth

3.2 of 5 stars 3.20  ·  rating details  ·  523 ratings  ·  153 reviews
Finished in 1947 and lost to readers until now, House of Earth is Woody Guthrie's only fully realized novel—a powerful portrait of Dust Bowl America, filled with the homespun lyricism and authenticity that have made his songs a part of our national consciousness. It is the story of an ordinary couple's dreams of a better life and their search for love and meaning in a corr...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Harper (first published 2013)
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I've spent the last couple of days lost in the 1930s Dust Bowl, specifically on the Texas plains. It's a hard, nasty place to be, but it was enlivened by the passionate Tike and Ella May Hamlin--wheat farmers and plain and simple, but they've got big dreams. They live in a rotting share-croppers shack, but five cents bought them a government pamphlet giving directions to create adobe bricks which would be safe from the horrible winds of the plains, protect them from the heat and the cold, and wo...more
“On the fourteenth day of April,
Of nineteen thirty-five,
There struck the worst of dust storms
That ever filled the sky.
You could see that dust storm coming
It looked so awful black,
And through our little city,
It left a dreadful track.”

In this story Guthrie had his day to write, away from his ballads and in the same vein that Steinbeck undertook to wag his finger at the powers that be, at capitalism during the Great Depression. He was in the turmoil and great storms he felt the peoples plight, is...more
Jack Waters
This formerly lost novel, which resurfaced in 2012 among his archival paperwork, is an interesting complement to Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." Guthrie's novel diverges from the exodus of GoW, and finds its story in a couple suffering hardships but staying on their land. The goal of the main character Tike is to forge a house out of the earth -- the wooden homes ravaged by storm and weather were not to his liking, and he studies adobe bricks, and the obsession haunts Tike throughout the novel.

Woody Guthrie describes in exquisite detail the bleak existence of a young couple trying to get by in abject poverty in one of the harshest environments this country has had to offer - the Texas panhandle in the 1930's. He hits on his usual themes of the stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots and the resilience and determination of the latter. His writing style, however, surprised me a bit. It's a stream-of-consciousness flow in the local vernacular that would probably be called "bea...more
Thanks, Douglas Brinkley and Johnny Depp, for a well-written and interesting introduction. Now if only the book itself were as well-written and interesting! I TRIED to read it. I spent about a year in Pampa, Texas, when my husband was on a job assignment, so I thought I might enjoy the feel of the setting. After all, I did enjoy some elements of the windblown high plains during my time there. Instead, as I read House of Earth, I wanted to say, "Tike, why don't you and 'Lady' (ugh!), aka Ella May...more
There were some fine moments in this book, times when the prose was rich and gripping, when the characters' hopes and dreams could be easily sympathized with, when Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" and even "The Pearl" were sometimes drawn to mind. But there were also times when the prose seemed painfully forced, when the dialogue seemed redundant (the use of interjections by Tike and nicknames used playfully by Ella May). It is a good work of fiction at its core, the central theme being the couples...more
House of Earth is a previously unpublished novel by the prolific musician and artist, Woody Guthrie, most famous for the American ballad, "This Land is Your Land." Guthrie apparently wrote over three thousand songs but this is his only novel and unfortunately I must say that the freshman novelist's unpublished work should have stayed the way Guthrie left it, unpublished. The short 200 page work took me over a week and a half to finish, which is far too long for a reader like me who has so many o...more
"I wish you'd think up some kind of a way to get us a piece of nice good farmin' land, with an adobe house on it, an' a big adobe fence all around it."

Imagine the same words, not just published in this decade but written in it, by a living author. Take the same setting, characters, plot, book cover and the dustbowl colloquialisms. Remove the names Woody Guthrie and Johnny Depp: it is unlikely that you would have read even this far. But Guthrie wrote presciently, breathtakingly of a topic that wo...more
Michael May
Was a-farmin' on the shares, and always I was poor;
My crops I lay into the banker's store.
My wife took down and died upon the cabin floor,
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore.

From the song "I Ain't Got No Home" by Woody Guthrie

Besides hundreds of folk songs like "I Ain't Got No Home," Woody Guthrie wrote two memoirs, Bound for Glory and Seeds of Man: An Experience Lived and Dreamed.

When it came out in 1943, Bound for Glory was praised as "the throaty song of a dust bowl troubador." Bob...more
Matthew Murphy
Woody Guthrie gave us some of the best songs about this great country. He was an outspoken advocate for the poor and lowly who were struggling to survive. His words and songs gave us greats like Seeger, Dylan, Springsteen and others. That is why I wanted to read House of Earth.

Guthrie has a way with words, which I know is an understatement. For the first couple of pages it felt like I was reading a long lost Steinbeck novel (And Steinbeck is one of my all time favorite writers), but then it tur...more
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I must admit to not knowing much about Woody Guthrie beyond the folk songs he sang and of course, "This Land is Your Land." I suspect though that the synopsis of this book would have intrigued me no matter the author. Sadly, I think the only reason this book was published is BECAUSE it was written by Woody Guthrie.

It is ostensibly a story about a man wanting a better life for his family. He thinks that building an adobe house is the answer because it will stand up the the ravages of the weather....more
Quintessentially Woody Guthrie. If you're a fan, and don't have young readers perusing your bookshelves, this would be one to collect. For the wonderful art, if nothing else.
I can't help wishing Woody had made Tike and Ella May the subject of one of his epic ballads instead of attempting a novel. Poet that he was, his use of symbolism is great, his grasp of the human condition-well, human. Nevertheless, I found the pages-long sex scenes tedious and being an Okie myself, the inane dialogue offen...more
I really loved this book and so I will leave you with a quote and few thoughts. This book is not for prudes though; there are some fairly graphic sex scenes which I am sure were way ahead of their time for 1947.

This book really celebrates life despite all of its obstacles. It celebrates love and hard work and hope when you have nothing but a dream and that dream carries you through day after day after day. The language in this book is wonderful and poetic and musical just like you would expect...more
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My opinion: I will never forget an outraged Dennis Green, coach of the AZ Cardinals, after a butt whoopin' by the Chicago Bears in 1996 screaming on the podium "They were who we thought they were!" Well, in regards to House of Earth, it is what I thought it would be. Think progressiveness and those mean, mean corporations. Predictable, boring, foreseeable in plot! Had it not have been Woody Guthrie who wrote the book it never would have hit my TBR shelf,...more
Sooooo, Woody Guthrie wrote this novel in the late 40's. He sent it off to documentary filmmaker Irving Lerner to make a movie out of it. Lerner stashed the manuscript away, bless his heart, doing Woody Guthrie a favor bigger than he would ever know. This book was not or is not ready for the world. Years later, Johnny Depp and Douglas Brinkley publish it, with a big huge introduction written by the movie star. Woody lovers like me see the venerable names of Woody Guthrie and Johnny Depp together...more
234 pages written in 1947

This is a story of a couple who live in Oklahoma during the dust storms. Their struggles with life, yet have some fun. I found my self struggling with them, particularly when it was time for the birth of the kid.

the house of earth is the adobe home where no termites live, dust can get in and the wind does not blow through the cracks. this couple dreams about building one on their own land.

Woody Guthrie wrote a lot of folk songs, one of which is , this Land Is Your Land...more
When I heard that Woody's single complete novel was finally being published, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it, and I couldn't have been more pleased with it. Much like Woody himself and his well-known musical offerings, this spare and beautiful tale and the characters it celebrates are simple and down-to-earth at the same time they are revolutionary and subversive. It's the story of Tike and Ella May Hamlin, a hard-working yet fun-loving pair of sharecroppers living in a shack in the Dust B...more
Kathleen Hagen
House of Earth, by Woody Guthrie, Introduction narrated by Douglas Brinkley, and book itself by Will Patton, Produced by Harper Audio, Downloaded from

If you didn’t know that Woody Guthrie wrote more than wonderful songs, you’re not alone. This book is the only completed novel that he wrote. It was finished in 1947. He shopped it around because it was his wish it become a movie.But that never happened and for years this book was buried in the vault of a publisher. Finally, this book...more
This long-lost Woody Guthrie book tells part of the story of Tike and Ella May, living in what is not much more than a shack in the Texas panhandle during the dust bowl times, and dreaming of more. Their dream doesn't go an awful lot further than building an adobe house and owning an acre of land, but it seems that even that small dream is probably beyond their reach.

There's not an awful lot of plot to the book, but that's OK, because its strengths make up for it. The two characters are really w...more
Yeah, it's full of homespun lyricism, but I can't really recommend it to anyone who's not seriously interested in Guthrie. Apologies to Johnny epp. Structyrally t's very, very weird in some very interesting ways--so little of the scaffolding of a realist novel is there, and there are only three characters, and the entire novel takes place over a period of hours, basically. The book is mostly about a couple's intimacy, and it depicts that intimacy so closely that it's almost obscene--long cringy...more
Natasha Phillips
Really loved the descriptions in this book and the story itself. It's a very soulful book. Only criticism would be that there tended to be an overuse of the 'list' technique (long, rambling nouns used to create an image of a place or feeling), which some American authors seem fond of doing, but quite frankly made me feel exhausted and less willing to bring the scene to life.

It's also not a complete book in some sense as the ending is not really a culmination of the story, but an ongoing dilemma...more
Woody's short novel about life in the Dust Bowl living in a shack as so many others did thanks to big banks and big agriculture. Unlike others who left for California, this is about a family who stayed and the hardships they endured and their dream of owning an adobe house the that will stand up to the weather instead of a rented falling down shack. The book explains the economical reasons those in control don't want this to happen so the small dream is beyond their reach. The start of huge ranc...more
Apr 17, 2013 Catherine marked it as abandoned
The book opens with tenant farmer Tike Hamlin and his wife Ellie May discussing a pamphlet that explains how to build adobe houses. The conversation veers toward other topics, but always circles back to the instability of their frame house in the dust-bowl winds of Texas. Then begins the longest sex scene I’ve ever read, with Tike and Ellie May continuing to discuss the substandard house whilst in the act, a brief pause to discuss the tumbledown shack more thoroughly, then more sex. Maybe they e...more
Had this book in hand, but hadn't started it until returning from a roadtrip through some of the country where it is set. And the land, the elements and how they affect its inhabitants is much of the premise. The travel & the book were well timed to intertwine my understandings.
Interesting backstory to this book, discovered only recently.
Interesting introduction making me aware of more of the background, info on Woody, his writing, the area this was written about.
However, I think his music...more
I've always been a big fan of Woody as a songwriter/troubadour, so when I saw this in the library, I scooped it up. The introduction by Douglas Brinkley and Johnny Depp pointed out several things about him that I either had not known or had forgotten.
This story resonates with the plight of many people today who feel powerless against corporate greed. Tike and Ella May are dustbowlers who decide to stay on the land rather than migrate west. Predictably, they cannot win.
This is very unusual as a...more
I don't know whether to attribute my perseverance with this book to my admiration of Woody Guthrie or of Johnny Depp

I don't think I've ever read an introduction that had four chapters.

The male lead was not very likeable. If he'd been my spouse, I'd have backhanded him across the farmyard.

There were times when I wanted to throttle the author and insist he take out about ten nouns from his sentences. Alright, I got it already. Stop! It's a book, not a song!

Why they wanted a house of earth was i...more
Allison Drennan
I just finished House of Earth. The book is short, and limited in scope, being a crow's-eye vignette of a married couple sharecropping in North Texas during the dust bowl. Though its literal scope may be small, the text is richly metaphorical, highlighting relationships between people, relationships between man and soil, and between man and the world. It is also rife with social commentary, and the simplicity of the words belies a steady intellectual underpinning. It is evocative and richly text...more
I picked this up on the new acquisitions shelf at the library because it was by Woody Guthrie. I'd just been reminiscing about learning "This Land is Your Land" in elementary music class.

I don't feel like I wasted my time with this, but I wouldn't re-read it. It was Steinbeckian with a dash of beat poet (not my cup of tea), plus a really long, awkward sex scene in the first chapter (not even my cup of lukewarm water). I can totally see why the author never got it published during his lifetime.

Jessica Buike
I received an advance review copy of this book, so perhaps some of what I will bring up has been corrected. Regardless, I did not enjoy this book.

The first thing that turned me off was the too-long introduction at the beginning, that took up about 1/5 of the book itself! It probably should have just been added as a discussion at the end for readers who actually cared to know any of the back story of the author.

Then, the story just didn't work for me - usually I love stories about the plains st...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Covers for new Woody Guthrie novel House of Earth 2 25 Feb 02, 2013 02:49PM  
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Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie was an American songwriter and folk musician. Guthrie's musical legacy consists of hundreds of songs, ballads and improvised works covering topics from political themes to traditional songs to children's songs. Guthrie performed continually throughout his life with his guitar frequently displaying the slogan "This Machine Kills Fascists". Guthrie is perhaps best know...more
More about Woody Guthrie...
Bound for Glory This Land is Your Land Artworks New Baby Train Born to Win

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