Thursday, November 5, 7:00pm CT
Left Bank Books' Facebook Live Page
About Woody Guthrie: An Intimate Life
Dismantles the Woody Guthrie we have been taught—the rough-and-ready ramblin’ man—to reveal an artist who discovered how intimacy is crucial for political struggle
Woody Guthrie is often mythologized as the classic American “ramblin’ 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 What’s left unexamined is how the bulk of Guthrie’s work—most of which is unpublished or little known—delves into the importance of intimacy in his personal and political life. Featuring an insert with personal photos of Guthrie’s family and previously unknown paintings, Woody Guthrie: An Intimate Life is a fresh and contemporary analysis of the overlapping influences of sexuality, politics, and disability on the art and mind of an American folk icon.
Part biography, part cultural history of the Left, Woody Guthrie offers a stunning revelation about America’s quintessential folk legend, who serves as a guiding light for leftist movements today. In his close relationship with dancer Marjorie Mazia, Guthrie discovered a restorative way of thinking about the body, which provided a salve for the trauma of his childhood and the slowly debilitating effects of Huntington’s disease. Rejecting bodily shame and embracing the power of sexuality, he came to believe that intimacy was the linchpin for political struggle. By closely connecting to others, society could combat the customary emotional states of capitalist cultures: loneliness and isolation. Using intimacy as one’s weapon, Guthrie believed we could fight fascism’s seductive call.
“Woody Guthrie: An Intimate Life adds powerfully to our understanding of a man who never shied from blending the personal with the political.” —The Progressive Magazine
“Gustavus Stadler helps Woody Guthrie down from his pedestal as dust bowl icon and helps us to see him as the three-dimensional character he really was.” —Billy Bragg, musician and activist
About the Speakers
Gustavus Stadler is the author of Woody Guthrie: An Intimate Life (Beacon Press Books, 2020) and Troubling Minds (U of Minnesota Press, 2006). His writing on music, literature, and politics has appeared in Public Books, Al Jazeera, avidly.com, Social Text and many other venues. He teaches in the English Department at Haverford College and lives in the Philadelphia area.
Robin Wheeler is a St. Louis-based writer. She has been a regular contributor to the Riverfront Times, St. Louis Magazine, Sauce, Eleven, and KDHX.org. Her work appears in the anthologies Knives and Ink, The St. Louis Anthology, and Woody Guthrie Poets, 2019. She's currently working on a memoir of her year chasing Woody Guthrie. You can find her rejected writings at robindwheeler.com.
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