Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bring Your Own God

Review of Bring Your Own God: The Spirituality of Woody Guthrie by Rev. Steve Edington; 3.5 stars

This book covers an aspect of Woody's life no other biography spends much time on: his spirituality. The basic case is made in the first chapter; the remaining chapters strive to support the argument. The author is a Unitarian minister, and possibly reflects some preference toward portraying Woody as a self-taught Unitarian. Having read much of Woody's writing beyond Bound For Glory, however, I agree with this portrayal.

The author's approach is not chronological, which I found interesting — though I was not sure why he approached the topic in this fashion. It certainly helped that I was already familiar with Guthrie's biography from three other sources (Bound for Glory, and Woody Guthrie: A Life by Joe Klein & Ramblin' Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie by Ed Cray).

The book includes much of Woody's writing that I have not seen elsewhere, especially letters he wrote in response to condolence letters after the death of Cathy ("Stackabones"), and much of a play written after he was hospitalized with Huntington's. For me, these selections were worth the $4 for the Kindle edition.

The book does become repetitive in the last few chapters, which is the main reason it falls short of a four-star review. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend someone read this as a supplement with Klein or Cary's biographies to get a full picture of the man.

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