Title: Bound for Glory
Author: Woody Guthrie
Page Count/Review Word Count: 320
I have mixed feelings about this book, but I think that’s largely because it’s a bit of a beast if you’re not properly psyched up for it. It takes time and concentration to get through it and feels like too much of a chore to be a 5/5, but it’s still culturally significant. In fact, it’s even a lot of fun from time to time, and it’s impressive how Guthrie is able to capture the vernacular – and the lifestyle – at the time.
For a book that’s about a musician, there isn’t a huge amount of information here about Guthrie’s early musical career, but that’s okay. We still get to see him travelling around with his guitar and playing songs to the folks he met along the way. In many ways, that’s the point – this isn’t a ‘coming-of-age’ kind of story but rather the non-fiction equivalent of the fabled great American novel.
It’s also interesting to some of the themes that followed Guthrie throughout his life, of which fire is probably the most prominent. In fact, he lost several houses as a kid and spent a lot of time on the move, which is probably why he grew up to live a life on the rails. Say what you want about Guthrie, the man was a real character – and I can see why Bob Dylan used to re-read this book over and over again.
Ultimately, then, this book isn’t for everyone – but if you’re a big fan of either Guthrie or the folk music that he influenced, you’ll definitely enjoy this. But you’ll also enjoy it if you’re interested in America during the 1930s – 1950s. Guthrie’s writing is as evocative as any novelist’s, which means you can almost taste the dust and smell the sweat of the men in the taverns.