NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 2

Daughter of HOUSE OF EARTH author Woody Guthrie

Moderator: Liz

User avatar
fireflydances
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 3119
Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:15 pm
Location: under a pile of books
Contact:

Status: Offline

NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 2

Unread postby fireflydances » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:34 pm

.
.
.


Here's Part 2 of our interview with Nora. I hope you enjoy it.


Fireflydances: Do you think Woody regarded House of Earth as finished? I know that’s a hard thing to decide, but I’m just curious.

Nora: I don’t know how he regarded it. He did have the story in a couple of different versions. He had it as a play; he had it as a short story. He kind of seemed to play around with it - I think it was right after this? He did turn it into a screenplay, and sent a copy to a filmmaker in Los Angeles saying this would be a great play on film. I want to say that, without saying quote on quote he was trying to do a hard sell on it, he would often very freely re-create something.

Another example - there are five different versions of "This Land Is Your Land," depending on the time and place. He would say, “Boy, I could use this same structure, this same material for a WW II song.” "So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You" is another song that we have three or four versions of, and they are for very different experiences. One is leaving the Dust Bowl, saying so long to the Dust Bowl, one is saying so long to Hitler during WWII. (laughs) I want to say that his own creativity wasn’t sacrosanct to him. He could twist it and move in around, “This could be a play, this could be a book, maybe I’ll make a painting of it, and then I’ll make a lyric.” And, as a matter of fact, there is a lyric, as well, called "House of Earth".

He worked very freely with his own thoughts. And so the question you asked was: is it finished? I’m not quite sure. If someone had come up to him and said Woody this is a great start, and maybe it needs more of a beginning or this or that. And working with an editor, and that did happen with Bound for Glory, where someone encouraged him to write a little bit more about this, a little bit less about that, etc. So Bound for Glory seems just naturally more like a conventional novel in that sense, whereas this (book HOE) seems just less conventional. Either he meant it to be less conventional, or he could have filled out a few more chapters or thoughts. I am not really sure what his intentions were, actually.

I could see an editor, couldn’t you, kind of coming along and saying, “tell me a little more about this, tell me more about that?” Like I said with Bound for Glory, I have all of the background papers and letters between him and the editor saying, “tell me more about this, go into more detail about that.” And that happens, I’m sure you know, all the time with writers. Again, an outside eye saying “you know what you’re talking about, but I don’t.” Another example is conversations where Woody would write pages and pages and pages of every single detail of a conversation, and the editor would come back and say, “Well, you made that point ten times, why don’t we just edit this out and tighten it up a little bit, all you have to do is make the point once?” Which again might be a better read.

On the other hand, what I really enjoy about this book is, you see, you really follow Woody’s intent, even repeating a thought over and over again. I think that’s one of the main structural qualities of the book, is this idea of repetition. Repetition of thoughts, repetition in experience, repetition of the Dust Bowl, of the days, of every day going by exactly the same. He talks about that a lot, another day, another dust. It’s just this unrelentingness of life’s experiences. And, I often think an editor would say, “you said that ten times, cut it down to one.” But I wonder then if I would have that experience of repetition if he had edited so much of that out? Because part of the painfulness of reading the book is unrelentingly repetition of these days and of this couple’s conversation. And you go, “I really get what it’s like to be stuck in a room with one other person in the middle of the dust storm.”


Fireflydances: I really saw House of Earth as a piece of art. It’s an unconventional novel but who cares, you know? What he’s given us is something that preserves a place and time, and I loved the stream of consciousness, I was just like, whoa!”

Nora: Yeah, it (the book) took me by surprise though; I have to be honest, when I first read it. I was totally stunned in a couple of ways because it reminded me so much of the writers that came a decade or two later…..Beat Writers.

Fireflydances: Oh my goodness.

Nora: Do you feel that way too?

Liz: Yes.

Nora: This kind of abandoness of structure, the abandoness of rules and regulations and grammar. Like I’m just bursting with words, and I want to say them my way, in my time and my everything. When I think of it, it’s like boy, this is the kind of writing that, you know Kerouac came 15 years later, you know what I mean?

Fireflydances: Yeah, I wonder if he met him? I found myself thinking did he ever show him a copy or something? (Laughter)

Nora: But I think because Woody didn’t write for publishing necessarily. He didn’t do anything for business reasons. I know we could segue to one of your other questions, but I think this whole freedom of expression where he just needed to say things the way he needed to say things. He never had anyone, for better or for worse, looking over his shoulder saying this is too long, this is too short, cut it out, what does that word mean, you don’t spell women like that. (laughter) All the rules and regulations that are around literature, and I think these are the guys that almost accidentally break through and create something a little bit different. And so for me reading it, boy, this was written in the 1940s!

Then, twenty years later Kerouac comes along, Ferlinghetti comes along, Howl comes along, Ginsberg comes along. And then Dylan comes along with his stream of consciousness lyrics that just go on, and on and on in that free style. So I think, in that sense, I could look at the novel and say, even just for study, it is important to realize who was breaking ground. Not even intentionally, just because of who they were in literature at the time, and I think Woody really put his mark on this one. Not to mention a thirty page sex scene. (Laughter)


Fireflydances: The readers were like “it’s too long”

Nora: This is really going on too long! (chuckle) But the other thing I have to tell you, is that I am from New York, and I am the speedy kind of person, and maybe you guys are too, ‘cause we come from the coasts. But when you inhabit certain parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, you go down there and everything is at least half time. So this idea of something taking its time, taking what seems to us taking an extraordinary amount of just taking your time with how you want to do something, how your want to say something.

My level of patience being from New York is like, whoa that’s too long. But when I am there, I just got back from Oklahoma, and you know what, things happen in totally different timing down there and you have to adjust your inner clock and your tempo. They talk in this very slow and very succinct, yep! Whereas New Yorkers, maybe you guys too, we like to say things quickly, smartly and eloquently. And these guys are like, yep, don’t cha think? And it really is like that. He’s really reflecting the way the rest of the country talks.

There was something I had to, I don’t know if you had this experience, I kind of looked at myself a lot of the times when I was reading this book and saying, boy are we different, I mean just as an nation. Wow! Aren’t we all so different? The Midwest, the Southwest, the Northeast and the Northwest, like we all have such different personalities in a way. I had to get to know these people. It took me a while to get to know the characters in this book, and to feel comfortable with them. Instead of being me the New Yorker, ‘’would you hurry up already?” I had to get into their time.

Liz: Yeah, I agree.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

User avatar
Buster
Posts: 810
Joined: Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:07 am

Status: Offline

Re: NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 2

Unread postby Buster » Sat Jun 08, 2013 10:20 am

Nora makes many interesting points here, and my favorite is the idea that Woody was the harbinger of the Beats. Seems just perfect to me.

I wasn't surprised by her comment, "Woody didn’t write for publishing necessarily. He didn’t do anything for business reasons" because so much of his output seems as if it just, I don't know, sprang out of him. I am very glad that House of Earth wasn't subjected to the usual editing process. It would be fascinating to read the play version of it, and especially the screenplay.
And, as a matter of fact, there is a lyric, as well, called "House of Earth".
Now I'm totally curious about this, as well...

The whole concept of regional tempos is part of what made me love the book. Having lived all over, I definitely know what Nora is talking about, and it was the way that Woody captured that time and region that made the book so memorable. Years ago I had a neighbor who could have been Tike's brother, and it was wonderful to read dialog that transported me back to conversations we had, standing in the dirt road...

Being able to "listen in" on a discussion with Nora is a rare treat, indeed. Thank you so much!

User avatar
ladylinn
Posts: 770
Joined: Thu Aug 14, 2008 9:09 pm
Location: Kentucky

Status: Offline

Re: NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 2

Unread postby ladylinn » Sat Jun 08, 2013 11:15 am

Enjoying the interview very much. I was struck by the reference to the tempo of the book being a cultural and regional thing. I never thought about that - but totally agree with her and thank her for bringing it to our attention. Makes me enjoy and understand the book even more.

User avatar
Theresa
JDZ Webmaster
Posts: 26231
Joined: Sun May 01, 2005 1:21 am
Location: Houston, Texas

Status: Offline

Re: NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 2

Unread postby Theresa » Sat Jun 08, 2013 3:37 pm

But when you inhabit certain parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, you go down there and everything is at least half time.

The whole time I was reading the book, I kept thinking that it sounded like about half of my relatives. Yeah, I thought the sex scene was too long, but beside that, the pacing of the rest of the book didn't seem slow. "Texan" is pretty slow, you know...

User avatar
nebraska
Posts: 27370
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:15 pm
Location: near Omaha

Status: Offline

Re: NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 2

Unread postby nebraska » Sun Jun 09, 2013 12:41 am

When I was reading the book Tike reminded me of my friend's brothers, one of whom I foolishly dated. They lived in the rough country on the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills. And as a Nebraskan, I suppose I am used to a slower pace in general; however, my Iowa niece who moved to Arkansas informs me I have no idea what slow really means! :biglaugh: It is true that much of the pace of the scenes felt comfortable to me, and I didn't really think how people on the east coast, for instance, would relate to the tempo. And not only is there a geographic difference, I think some of the contrasts are magnified by the difference in the era. My discomfort was in waiting for something to happen that was a dramatic event rather than daily life which seemed normal and familiar to me.

Too long, Theresa? Perhaps only in the written word...... :flirt:

User avatar
fireflydances
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 3119
Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:15 pm
Location: under a pile of books
Contact:

Status: Offline

Re: NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 2

Unread postby fireflydances » Sun Jun 09, 2013 1:09 am

nebraska wrote:When I was reading the book Tike reminded me of my friend's brothers, one of whom I foolishly dated. They lived in the rough country on the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills. And as a Nebraskan, I suppose I am used to a slower pace in general; however, my Iowa niece who moved to Arkansas informs me I have no idea what slow really means! :biglaugh: It is true that much of the pace of the scenes felt comfortable to me, and I didn't really think how people on the east coast, for instance, would relate to the tempo. And not only is there a geographic difference, I think some of the contrasts are magnified by the difference in the era. My discomfort was in waiting for something to happen that was a dramatic event rather than daily life which seemed normal and familiar to me.

Too long, Theresa? Perhaps only in the written word...... :flirt:


That last comment made my night nebraska. I'm still giggling.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies


Return to “Nora Guthrie”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest