Bound for Glory (1943)
by Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
This is Woody’s autobiography that Bob Dylan read around 1959, after hearing Woody’s records. Dylan describes the impact the book had on him in Chronicles Volume One.
Guthrie comes across as a straightforward man, a voice without guile, seemingly incapable of dissembling. The period covered is from his childhood through the early part of World War II, when he was roaming the country with others looking for work. The transition from plain old working, sign-painting and migrant picking, to singing for nickels in saloons and for pleasure in the camps is not spelled out. But the effect of that life on him and on the many others with no steady work, single men and families, comes through.
The book is a quick read, mostly plain narrative with snatches of poetic imagery and verses of songs. It shows a part of American history most people don’t learn about, and ought to be part of the standard curriculum.