In the early 1930's Woody Guthrie, his father and two kinsmen drove in an old Model T truck six hundred miles southward from the oil-boom town of Pampa, Texas, to the wild desert and mountain country of the Big Bend of the Rio Grande. There, on the Mexican border, they hoped to relocate a rich vein of silver and gold ore discovered years earlier by Woody's pioneer grandfather.
On this experience, which impressed him deeply and is often reflected in his later work, Woody Guthrie based Seeds of Man. Lusty, poetic, funny and captivating, partly true, partly imagined and fictionalized, this stirring narrative of the search for the silver mine inimitably portrays Woody himself, the world he came from, and the rugged grandeur and mystery of the border country. Written mainly in 1947-48, Seeds of Man was left among Woody's papers when he died in 1967 and is now published for the first time.
Studs Terkel has written that when Woody Guthrie sat down at the typewriter, the words "danced off the pages." Seeds of Man displays that side of Woody's genius. It tells the story of his first urgent, youthful, sometimes fumbling, sometimes foolish and usually headlong embrace of many of the life forces that he celebrates in his songs: adventure, music, the itching foot, love. sex, the whole panorama of nature. and especially people&mdawsh;poor people. rich ones, cattlemen, Mexicans, Indians, wetbacks; laughing, fighting, struggling. suffering people.
The book's underlying theme is akin to that of Conrad's Youth— a celebration of those eventful years when hardship merely intensifies a young man's joy in living. The challenge of adventure, the huge enjoyment of a lashing storm, a dark-eyed stranger met up with and embraced, the magic of mysticism, the flashing bodies of young girls bathing in the Rio Grande—Woody could never get enough of it all.
In Seeds of Man we find not only Woody Guthrie's version of a man's maturing, but also the genesis of what made him the extraordinary individual he was—a humorous, tender man, as ardent as quicksilver and as hard to pin down. As Rolling Stone said in a review of Woody's autobiography, Bound for Glory, his "vision and humor would have secured him a place in the national heritage even had he never raised his voice in song."
About the Author
During World War II Woody Guthrie served in the merchant marine, surviving the torpedoings of two of his ships, and later donned Army uniform. Settling in Brooklyn after the war, he entered on one of his most productive periods of songwriting, made many popular recordings and wrote his second major prose work, Seeds of Man. He started a second version in 1953 but could not finish it: for most of the last 15 years of his life Woody was hospitalized with Huntington's Disease. Before his death in 1967 he was honored with the Conservation Service Award of the U.S. Department of the Interior. He was married three times and left six children, among them Arlo Guthrie, folksinger in his father's tradition.
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