Woody Guthrie is often mythologized as the classic American 'rambling' man,' a real-life Steinbeckian folk hero who fought for working-class interests and inspired Bob Dylan. Biographers and fans frame him as a foe of fascism and focus on his politically charged folk songs. What's left unexamined is how the bulk of Guthrie's work--most of which is unpublished or little known--delves into the importance of intimacy in his personal and political life. Part biography, part cultural history of the Left, Woody Guthrie offers a revelation about America's quintessential folk legend, who serves as a guiding light for leftist movements today.
... through new research on Woody Guthrie in Haverford College professor of American literature Gustavus Stadler’s important biography Woody Guthrie: An Intimate Life, one finds greater depth and complexity in a man you may have otherwise considered a myth not unlike Johnny Appleseed ... Woody Guthrie: An Intimate Life examines a more corporeal and personal side of the man behind the legend ... This biography offers not only a fresh portrait of Guthrie, but also participates in a more spacious and critical project—how self-expression evolves within the course of a lifetime in play with others to track a shift in society. Woody Guthrie: An Intimate Life reimagines an American legend and creates space for emotional exploration and radical companionship.
Not only does Stadler present an 'unfamiliar Woodie Guthrie,' he presents history hidden by 'anti-communist panic.' ... Guthrie, from what we learn, is part of a bigger picture, challenging the 'simple narrative' of individual freedom of expression. The book could have gone further, but its questions are good.
Stadler (English, Haverford Coll.; Troubling Minds) delves into the Woody Guthrie archives to uncover the motivations behind the singer-songwriter’s beliefs and actions. Rather than relying on the mythic image of Guthrie (1912–67) as a freewheeling, loner hobo who courageously championed the dispossessed, he discovers a vulnerable, somewhat fragile man ... Throughout, Stadler casts Guthrie as a bridge between the Communist-dominated old left and new left cultural politics ... Though sometimes unable to explain the chasm between Guthrie’s words and actions, the author offers a well-researched addition to the Guthrie bibliography for general readers that complements Joe Klein’s standard biography, Woody Guthrie: A Life.