Published Jul 10, 2012This Saturday (July 14) will be the centennial of Woody Guthrie's birth, and this milestone has already been celebrated with tribute projects like a planned museum, box set, expanded Mermaid Avenue reissue, and tribute album. Soon, Guthrie's legacy will be revisited once again, as actor Johnny Depp and author Douglas Brinkley are editing Guthrie's unreleased novel House of Earth for release next year.
In an essay for the New York Times, Depp and Brinkley praised Guthrie's prose, noting that his "writing is distinguished by a homespun authenticity, deep-seated purpose and remarkable ear for dialect." They described House of Earth as "his only fully realized, but yet unpublished, novel."
The book was inspired by the Dust Bowl and Depression-era poverty. It follows two West Texas farmers, Tike and Ella May Hamlin, and offers an apparently compelling portrait of the time despite its "static narrative drive." The style is said to be "somewhere between rural realism and proletarian protest."
Guthrie finished the book in 1947 and shelved it, focusing instead on songwriting. Depp and Brinkley speculated that it may have remained unpublished due to its outdated (that is, pre-war) subject matter, graphic sexual content, and lowbrow dialect. A manuscript was being held at McFarlin Library at the University of Tulsa.
The editors recently showed the book to Bob Dylan, who was reportedly "surprised by the genius" of the writing. Look for it to drop sometime in 2013.