NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 6

Daughter of HOUSE OF EARTH author Woody Guthrie

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NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 6

Unread postby fireflydances » Thu Jun 13, 2013 10:00 pm

Our last chapter of the interview, enjoy!


Liz: What would you like the reader of House of Earth to take away from reading the book and what does it mean to the legacy of your father?


Nora: I think we talked about it in terms of the legacy. I think as a writer, it’s a very interesting part of the legacy. Just as a writer. We talked about the freedom of breaking rules and coming up with your own way of spelling things, writing in your own timing, the way it happened, all those things.

What to take away? I can only say for me like what I took away? I took away two things most strongly. One was this feeling that I really experienced (we talked about this before) this idea of the repetitiveness of every single day where just soaking out the dust from the rag day after day, after day, after day. And he puts me in this mood like where I’m dying by the end. I’m like, is this going to be a happy ending? Is there going to be a change? And then I went -- actually, no. For most people, this is the way they lived. When we saw the last Ken Burns’ documentary on the Dust Bowl, all the people that stayed. Not everybody left. All the people that stayed and endured year after year, after year of this daily struggle with this dust. So I kind of feel like he made me get gritty. He didn’t soft peddle me. You know? As a reader he made me (think). You want to know what it was like? This is what it was like: repetitive day after day, unceasing, dusty rags. (laughs)


Liz: This is true.

Nora: That was the first thing I obviously took away. And the second thing I personally took away was my sense of who I am in relationship. Like I talked about before, with so many people who live very different kinds of lives, made me very aware of (this). At first I thought, boy, are you a New Yorker! (laughs) I have to get into this. I have to give up my personality in a way. Like we were talking about Woody gives up his personality to embody other people. As a reader sometimes we have to give up who we are and what we think about everything. And we have to just get to their language, their timing, their lifestyle. And it made me become very aware of how much I hold onto who I am, in a way. Does that make any sense?


Liz: A lot, yeah.

Nora: I have my opinion, my tempo, my thing. And I went, boy, you know Nora, you don’t know anything about what it’s like to live like this, to talk like this, to have relationships like this. I felt in particular their relationship is so honest. And as citified people sometimes, our relationships are more cunning or more manipulative. You know, sometimes we’re too smart for our own good? The way we talk to each other, the way we deal with each other, it’s a little too manipulative sometimes? And these people just say what’s on their minds, they just say it. I’ve got something to tell you. What? I’m going to tell you. Okay, tell me. Then he tells her, and then she deals with it, and they get through it. And there’s no dancing around so to speak. You don’t feel like they’re manipulating words. They’re really speaking to each other.


Liz: Yeah, I have to agree that I felt that, too. It’s like I went, whoa! He really admitted that? And she really thinks this, and they’re saying it to each other.

Nora: Yeah, like a raw honesty and we don’t even know what that’s like anymore. When we talk to our mates it’s “well, honey…” And we maneuver it and we come through the back door. And I was thinking…..and boy, what a different culture where you say: I did this. You did? Yeah. Okay, why’d you do it? Cause I wanted to. It’s just like, boom, boom, boom. This freedom of just saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. I went away questioning myself as a human being. I just want to keep that in mind. That it’s really good to say what you mean, and mean what you say. You don’t always half to dance around it so much. This frankness, and unashamed of being frank.

Fireflydances: Straightforward without worry.

Nora: Yeah, I would just like a little more of that in life in general. We’re are all dancing around each other so much. I like the boom, boom. I get it.


Liz: You know where you stand with the boom, boom. (laughter)

Nora: It just affected me personally as a reader. I went away saying I think I would like to be more like that.


Liz: So, what was it like working with Douglas Brinkley and Johnny Depp, and bringing House of Earth to publication?

Nora: Well, it was a joy, actually. (chuckles) It was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. Because they are so good at what they do. Every time you do something, there’s a team involved. And you can have a good idea that goes absolutely nowhere because you don’t have the people at the foundation level, whether it’s having a great secretary that answers the phone and gets the information out right or – we’re all just links in the chain, you know.

These days, we’re talking about dissemination of information. There’s a number of people involved and I would say they are very fantastic to work with, just really good at what they do. So all we had to do was the Woody part, Douglas did his part, Johnny Depp did his part, by signing the contract and saying this is what I want to do, and I’m going to do some publicity on it. He was great at that. Everyone worked beautifully together, very professionally together. And Douglas was very, very knowledgeable about what he wanted to write about and what he wanted to talk about….which is why we’re going to do another book with him. Love him!

And also, another thing, it’s so wonderful to work with people you can really trust. You’re not worried that they’re doing things for exploitative reasons or anything like that. You know that in their hearts they’re somehow connected to this, for real. And without even talking about it, we didn’t have to talk about it. You could just tell this is important for me to do. And everyone has his own reasons. Johnny Depp has his reasons, Douglas has his reasons, I have mine, and our team has ours. And I always so appreciate when I sense that, you know? Just looking at someone’s eyes, and you go, you’re real about this, aren’t you. You’re not doing this to sell a book or anything. You’re really into this. Right? Yeah, okay!


Liz: And that’s unusual these days. It was an incredible interview. It was really great talking to you.

Nora: Thank you so much. I really do love talking about all this with people. I was just telling my office these days one of the things I most enjoy is not just talking about Woody, but talking about his heart and soul. How important that is for me. That’s why I do this work. It’s not to publish another book or make another record. For me, he’s a philosopher. And I’ve discovered that over a period of thirty years, getting to know him. You know, I didn’t know him very well in this way during the first thirty years of my life because of the Huntington’s. He was in the hospital most of my life. And, of course, I knew him and I helped take care of him. But on this level, I didn’t get here until I was in my forties, actually. One day I discovered my dad was secretly a philosopher, and I went, “My god, why didn’t you tell me?”

You know, during the Sixties we were out looking for gurus and teachers. I remember I was in my late thirties, and I read something of my dad’s, and at that point I had already studied the Eastern religion and philosophy, like going through the Sixties and the Maharajas and all that stuff. And I said, “oh my god, dad, it’s exactly what you’re saying. It’s almost exactly, word for word, idea for idea, philosophy for philosophy.” And it was this grand awakening in me that said: this is what I want to get behind. I want to talk about what love is. I’ll use Woody, his words, what he taught me about what love is.

That’s what I love talking about. And talking about how art gets disseminated and (how) nothing can stop you when you have that spirit in you. Who cares if you can make a record or not; somehow you will find a way to get through. If you’re fired from American Idol, you will find a way (Laughter) to get your voice heard and your message out there.

More and more the older I get, the more I realize that’s my real connection is this philosophy. Bob Dylan once said, “If you listen to Woody Guthrie, you’ll know how to live.” I thought, what a precocious thing to say? He knew that when he was 20. I only knew that when I was 40. (Laughter)


Fireflydances: (Woody) saved so much stuff. Maybe Woody was thinking about that, too? That saving so much, now it can come out in different ways, you know?

Nora: Exactly. Sometimes I wonder why all this happened under my watch? It was just meant to happen that way. I don’t have a grand master plan for any of this stuff, but it just seems like every day, every year, there’s something that needs to be said. And I find something of my father’s that says it. And I go, okay, now it’s time for this!


Liz: It’s amazing.

Nora: Yeah! I don’t know how long this will go on. Who knows? I know that the young people that work here at the office have developed the same love for his ideas. And even when I did the museum down in Oklahoma. Like do I care? Does he care if he has a museum? No, you don’t need another museum for that. But the idea is to have a place, to have a nest, where we are free to express these ideas. And people are free to come and read them or hear them, or see them.

It’s such a rare thing that you have this space. Like again, we talked about the arts, that’s the ultimate freedom, in my mind, and the museum is part of that creativity. This is what needs to be said now. We have a case and we can put in a lyric that needs to be said this day, or a piece of art that needs to be seen. So it’s a constantly changing, flowing experience. It’s not the Hard Rock Café. It’s not just about this is Woody’s guitar. There’s so much more, and I wanted to create a space where you can appreciate it very superficially, if you only have an hour. You know, read something, hear something. There are things of Woody’s that you can get in five minutes. You don’t really need to study it for a lifetime. But if you are so inclined, there are things you can study for a lifetime. (Laughter) He kind of goes from A to Z, you know?

So I guess that’s my lifetime, for now. So, are we okay? Hey ladies, thank you very much.


Liz: Oh, thank YOU!!!



And so we come to the end of our interview of Nora Guthrie. She gave us so much about the creative person, about the importance of art and how nothing stands in the way of art. It is a deeply soulful examination into her father and his work.

Thank you Nora…..and Anna! Liz and I will never forget this discussion. We’re two ‘hopers’ now, that’s for sure!

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

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Re: NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 6

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Jun 13, 2013 11:05 pm

This was such a wonderful interview! I am beyond impressed with our moderators and with Nora. I will be digesting this for a while I think.

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Re: NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 6

Unread postby fireflydances » Sat Jun 15, 2013 12:32 pm

Thank you for the kind comment nebraska.

I think it's also a credit to ONBC readers. We are the genuine deal folks, an insightful group of people who think about what they read. There really aren't a whole bunch of places like us.

I love this group. :grin:
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 6

Unread postby Theresa » Sun Jun 16, 2013 9:56 pm

One was this feeling that I really experienced (we talked about this before) this idea of the repetitiveness of every single day where just soaking out the dust from the rag day after day, after day, after day. And he puts me in this mood like where I’m dying by the end. I’m like, is this going to be a happy ending? Is there going to be a change? And then I went -- actually, no. For most people, this is the way they lived.

The entire book in one statement...she really nailed it here. This wasn't a 'Hollywood ending' kind of story; it was reality--in a fictional setting.

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Re: NORA GUTHRIE INTERVIEW - Part 6

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Jun 18, 2013 1:33 pm

I just read the whole interview in one sitting and you all did a wonderful job! I know it isn't easy to transcribe and edit an interview like this and you made us feel we right in the room with you. Nora had some wonderful insights that helped me appreciate and understand the book and her dad in a way I hadn't before. Thank you!! :cool:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!


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