WUMB August Program Guide

Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck

One of the benefits of the past few months has been finding more time to read books. One such novel that I had been meaning to (re)read for a while is John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I think I “read” it during high school, but in all honesty that might have meant I watched the John Ford film adaptation starring Peter Fonda and called it a day. Which is all well and fine because I don’t think teenage Brendan could have really grasped what Steinbeck was getting at in the novel.

What a masterpiece! The character development (especially of Tom Joad and Ma Joad) is incredible, and the dialogue and language Steinbeck captures, juxtaposed with his poetic way of describing the hardships dust bowl migrants endured, and his commentary of the social and political realities that created and reinforced those conditions, is genius. I’m glad I’ve taken the time to really read that novel when I was ready.

All to say that The Grapes of Wrath reads like a long-form Woody Guthrie song to me. The two were contemporaries, born within 10 years of each other; Woody from Oklahoma and Steinbeck from the land of opportunity in California. Individually, through their chosen media and format(s) of expression, they documented the same stories of American life during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years. Steinbeck and Guthrie helped to fill in the blanks where history books leave off (or omit).

Woody Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912 in Okemah, Oklahoma. On The Morning Show that Tuesday, I will devote the entire 9 o’clock hour to the songs and influence of one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th century. I’ll tie Guthrie’s stories to Steinbeck’s and will hopefully show how those stories continue to be relevant in today’s America.

Until then!

~ Brendan

Leave a Reply