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House of Earth: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 5, 2013


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House of Earth: A Novel + Bound for Glory (Plume) + Woody Guthrie: A Life
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062248391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062248398
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Powerful…Happily, many good things happened, and the book is finally with us.” (Larry McMurtry, New York Review of Books)

“Its voice is powerful, and to read it is to find kinship with an era whose angers and credulities still seem timely…There is a surprising electricity in House of Earth.” (USA Today)

“The style of House of Earth is strange and lyrical…House of Earth becomes an invaluable addition to the literature of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, one with an eerie relevance in today’s America.” (Dallas Morning News)

“Guthrie demonstrates an easy facility with language and the words of the people of the Great Plains. The opening lines strike a note of simple poetry…House of Earth will certainly be essential reading for Woody Guthrie fans.” (Christian Science Monitor)

House of Earth is an artifact, of course, but so is any buried treasure…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.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“What a combo! Johnny Depp and Woody Guthrie…This belongs on a shelf alongside Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath,…” (New York Post)

House of Earth is so alive it is hard to realize that its author has been gone for 45 years….Stark, original, brutal in spots, lyrical in others, often very funny.” (Times (London))

“A heartfelt story about grinding poverty …This novel, more than a curiosity, is both welcome and timely.” (Daily Telegraph (London))

“The book is an eccentric hymn to the everythingness of everything, a sort of hillbilly Finnegans Wake…it offers intimate, often startling access to the peculiar intellect and capacious soul of a 20th-century icon.” (Guardian)

“With Guthrie’s ear for language and eye for human passions, House of Earth is an engaging and poetic story about struggle that still rings true today. Its revival is welcome.” (Independent on Sunday)

“Guthrie’s straight forward depiction of his raw rural characters are reminiscent of not any of his fellow Americans so much as they are of Mikhail Sholokhov. The folksy, incantatory exuberance is all Guthrie…An entertainment -- and an achievement even more than a curiosity, yet another facet of Guthrie’s multiplex talents.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Almost more a prose poem than a novel, this is an impassioned tirade against agribusiness and capitalism. Like Guthrie’s songs, the novel presents concerns of the Everyman…readers who appreciate Jon Steinbeck and Erskine Caldwell, as well as fans of Guthrie’s music, will want to reach for this folksy novel.” (Library Journal)

“With dialogue riche in ‘hillbilly’ vernacular and a story steeped in folk traditions, Guthrie’s drought-burdened, dust-blown landscape swirls with life…His heritage as folksinger, artist, and observer of West Texas strife lives on through these distinct pages infused with the author’s wit, personality, and dedication to Americana.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Told in the unmistakable vernacular of Woody, at once earthy and erudite, House of Earth is less a novel than an extended prose poem interrupted by healthy smatterings of folksy dialogue.” (Shelf Awareness)

From the Back Cover

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 corrupt world.

Tike and Ella May Hamlin struggle to plant roots in the arid land of the Texas Panhandle. The husband and wife live in a precarious wooden farm shack, but Tike yearns for a sturdy house that will protect them from the treacherous elements. Thanks to a five-cent government pamphlet, Tike has the know-how to build a simple adobe dwelling, a structure made from the land itself—fireproof, windproof, Dust Bowl–proof. A house of earth.

Though they are one with the farm and with each other, the land on which Tike and Ella May live and work is not theirs. Due to larger forces beyond their control—including ranching conglomerates and banks—their adobe house remains painfully out of reach.

A story of rural realism and progressive activism, and in many ways a companion piece to Guthrie's folk anthem "This Land Is Your Land," House of Earth is a searing portrait of hardship and hope set against a ravaged landscape. Combining the moral urgency and narrative drive of John Steinbeck with the erotic frankness of D. H. Lawrence, here is a powerful tale of America from one of our greatest artists.

Customer Reviews

I have always been a fan of Woody Guthrie's music.
William Todd
The first chapter has a somewhat graphic and at the same time exceptionally boring sex scene and in the middle of it adobe houses are discussed.
P. Woodland
I found this book to be slow moving and not particularly well written.
Andrea Machnik

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Jefferson TOP 100 REVIEWER on February 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Die! Fall! Rot!." Tike Hamlin yelling at the shack they live in.
"What a year is, is just another round in our big old fight against the whole world." Tike to Ella May.
"Why has there got to be always something to knock you down?" Ella May Hamlin.

More than anything else, this book is about struggle. Guthrie has set the struggle in the hard scrabble, arid wastes of Texas. But ultimately the real struggle is between ordinary, hard working people (here represented by Tike and a pregnant Ella May Hamlin) who want to better their life, and the vagaries of big business (an unnamed U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector), that keeps them in a kind of limbo, and a nurse, Blanche. But ultimately all four are cursed with hard luck sometimes found in life. But Guthrie's prose also paints a picture of a place, and an era few, if any of us can truly comprehend. His descriptions of the land and the life lived are truly authentic, and bring this story to life. But the Hamlin's struggles can still be found today-the physical place may now be different-but the struggle for hard won rights is still with us. But underneath it all is a slight feeling-is the struggle ultimately worth it?

Guthrie's prose is effective in bringing the characters alive, but also the land in this particular part of Texas. As in his lyrics, his way of using words and phrases forms not only a picture of the people involved, but the problems they encounter, and the toll that it takes on the Hamlins. People familiar with Guthrie's style, his way with words, will see that same honest, plain spoken yet incisive style here. Having his subjects trying to build a home made from the very land they occupy-earthen bricks-is sheer genius.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By mason collins on February 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To pay homage to Woody Guthrie I think it would be valuable to think of how you procure this book. Woody preaches many things most of which emphasize the struggle of the little guy. He talks about being weary of big business and how a man in a suit armed with a ball point pen will drive a starving family from their home. Money causes Greed and everyone is corruptible including big corporations, especially ones with there hands in every pocket. If you are going to buy this book, which I highly recommend, buy it from a small book store, or directly from the source.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By h,s on February 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good for collectors but this is not Woody's best. Bound for glory had a rhythm to the language, like music, that swept you in and carried you along. This novel lacks that rhythm in the language. When the book starts, you wonder where Woody will end up taking it. Woody must have wondered the same thing too -- the plot doesn't rise and fall so much as gradually bump. Woody had a problem finishing things and even Bound for Glory short of fish tails into oblivion at the end. So too his novel Seeds of Man, which just sort of unravels at the end as if Woody had lost interest and just did what he could to wrap it up. Parts are fun reading, and overall both novels capture much of the flavor and insight into humanity the Woody had. But neither really works all that well as a novel and neither expresses Woody as well as Bound for Glory.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By RSC on February 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Poet, songwriter, activist and now revealed as a passionate novelist. Woody Guthrie's politics and passions shine in this well written story of a couple fighting against all odds to be successful in a place and time where all the cards were stacked against them. I hope a sequel is found.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert Nelson on March 8, 2013
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If you're a Woody Guthrie fan, like I am, there is much to like in this novel- the gritty combativeness of the Dust Bowl farmers is portrayed vividly. However, the novel suffers from a virtual lack of plot and does not, in my view, hold the reader's attention throughout, including several descriptions of love making, which would be tame by today's standards. I think Woody was a much better songwriter than a novelist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert D. Jones Author on February 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As a longtime fan of Woody Guthrie I was amazed to hear of this novel. His songs and his poems were snapshots into his soul.
Lost all these years now we have a full length novel written in the same mindset that gave us his songs. A student of the Old West, scratching out a living in West Texas has long held a fascination for me. The adobe house built from the earth. Reading you can feel the earth under your feet. Great read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carol Ann Bone on April 20, 2013
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it is not a great novel and the dialect is somewhat grating for the non- American ear but it is the sort of book I would expect Woody Guthrie to write. Angry and tender and uncomrpomising, a bit misogynist and a reminder that class warfare is only criticised by the rich winners.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barney W Smith on February 28, 2013
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This book was a compelling read for me because of the dialect. As a boy I lived in Pampa, Texas for a few years in the early 50's. Reading the book was like hearing a story from home folks. The story was a bit contrived but because of the narrative it should be must reading for people seeking to understand the people who lived on these plains.
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