Author Douglas Brinkley and actor Johnny Depp are combining their skills to edit 1947’s House of Earth, an unpublished novel written by folk singer Woody Guthrie. The book, due out next spring, follows a West Texas couple who, in their effort to build adobe homes as protection against treacherous weather, fight against banks and lumber companies.
As noted in an essay penned by the pair that appeared in the New York Times, House of Earth was inspired by Guthrie’s own experiences living through the Dust Bowl, as well as his reading of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Guthrie’s own writing of “This Land Is Your Land. The essay reads:
Pitched somewhere between rural realism and proletarian protest, somewhat static in terms of narrative drive, “House of Earth” nonetheless offers a searing portrait of the Panhandle and its marginalized Great Depression residents. Guthrie successfully mixes Steinbeck’s narrative verve with D. H. Lawrence’s openness to erotic exploration. When the Library of Congress folklorist Alan Lomax read the first chapter he was profoundly impressed. For months Lomax encouraged Guthrie to finish the book, saying he’d “considered dropping everything I was doing” just to get the novel published. “It was quite simply the best material I’d ever seen written about that section of the country,” he wrote.
Brinkley and Depp have previously joined forces to write the Grammy-nominated liner notes for “Gonzo”, a soundtrack accompanying the Hunter S. Thompson documentary of the same name. After the editors shared the novel with Bob Dylan, Dylan said he was “surprised by the genius” of the prose; if Guthrie surprised Dylan, this novel will be a 2013 must-read.