Dismantles the Woody Guthrie we have been taught—the rough-and-ready rambling’ man—to reveal an artist who discovered how intimacy is crucial for political struggle

Product Code: 5903
ISBN: 9780807014745
Format: Paperback / softback
Publisher: Beacon Press
Pages: 232
Published Date: 10/05/2021
Availability:In stock
Price: $18.00

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 What’s left unexamined is how the bulk of Guthrie’s work - most of which is unpublished or little known—delves into the importance of intimacy in his personal and political life. 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.

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When to Be Personal

“I Don’t Sing Any Silly or Jerky Songs”

Choreographing the Revolution

“I Hate to Describe My Mother in Terms Such as These”

The War Against Loneliness

Bodies of Glory


Two Good Men a Long Time Gone

“The Whole Works”

“Sick in His Own Healthy Way”

Look Away

“Exactly How My Own Mother Saw and Felt”

Acknowledgments Credits Notes Index

“If you are looking for the salacious details of Woody Guthrie’s sex life, you should find another book. Gustavus Stadler writes - with loving care and respectful maturity - of what he rightly calls Guthrie’s ‘fascination with the revolutionary potential of intimacy.’ Like Walt Whitman before him, Stadler’s Guthrie sees no artificial boundary between the needs and urges of the human body and those of the body politic: both can be so robust, and both can be so vulnerable - ultimately, like Guthrie himself. Stadler captures it all and, in the process, immeasurably enriches Woody Guthrie scholarship.” - Will Kaufman, author of Woody Guthrie: American Radical, Woody Guthrie’s Modern World Blues, and Mapping Woody Guthrie

“In this groundbreaking study, which focuses on Woody Guthrie’s later years, Stadler’s uniquely multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach to Guthrie’s complex, tragic, and fascinating life provides us with fresh perspectives and important insights into how this iconic figure pushed boundaries in his writing, music, and politics by redefining the role of intimacy.” - Kip Lornell, coauthor of The Life and Legend of Leadbelly

Woody Guthrie is a miraculous whirlwind through early- and mid-twentieth century US history and culture. Under the cloak of biography, Gustavus Stadler has written a meticulously researched and stunning kaleidoscope of events, music, people, and populist movements that have influenced our lives since. Stadler’s scope for contextualizing Guthrie’s provocative work is expansive - leftist politics, Pete Seeger, Sacco and Vanzetti, gay rights groups, racial violence, the history of psychiatry - and evocative. At its heart, this is a book about how art and intimacy have changed our ideas of equality and human rights.” - Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States

“Unlike almost all other writers on Woody Guthrie, Gustavus Stadler is not seduced by his deeply seductive subject. With revelatory scholarship and a critic’s skeptical touch - a tone not unlike that of Leslie Fiedler or Manny Farber - he retraces Guthrie’s footsteps, most strikingly when Guthrie left few if any traces himself.” - Greil Marcus, author of The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs

“Gustavus Stadler’s gorgeous book is both a paean to the Guthrie we know - the icon who channeled the aspirations and longings of dispossessed Americans - and a revealing look at the embodied Guthrie, who is vulnerable, playful, and lustful. By offering us a ‘biography of Woody Guthrie’s body,’ Stadler’s book opens up an important new window into not only Guthrie the man but the history of the twentieth-century American Left.” - Gayle Wald, author of Shout, Sister, Shout! The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe

“A radical, sympathetic, and essential rethinking of one of the twentieth century’s most radical, sympathetic, and essential artists. Powerful and inspiring.” - Jesse Jarnow, author of Wasn’t That a Time: The Weavers, the Blacklist, and the Battle for the Soul of America

“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

“A landmark work of Woody Guthrie as an artist, a thinker, and a man that makes a reputation cast in stone breathe again. This deep dive into Guthrie’s ‘private’ life and ‘minor’ works complicates a story most music fans thought they knew. It will change the way you think not just about Guthrie but about folk music and its political legacies.” - Ann Powers, author of Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music

“In tackling an exhaustively profiled icon of twentieth-century culture and politics, Gustavus Stadler has produced a refreshing, unflinching, and occasionally painful study of Woody Guthrie - exhuming a character more vulnerable than even his most ardent disciples might have imagined. This will not be the last book about Woody Guthrie, but it paints in missing colors that, taken with what we’ve previously known about him, brings us as close to effectively completing the man as we might ever get.” - Robert E. Price, author of The Bakersfield Sound: How a Generation of Displaced Okies Revolutionized

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