I read this because it was the choice for discussion in the Allnonfiction reading group for August – I started early because I couldn’t find something better to read, so – why not? I’ve loved Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie since I first heard them although I haven’t really kept up. I was about 15 years old when the folk music revival hit and I went on continuing to enjoy Dylan and loved it when he won the Nobel.
I know less about Woodie Guthrie, but heard a lot of his music and read a few bits- a kind of hero in my eyes of younger years. I’ve read the novels/biographies of both men.
Also, although I’m in California now, my Finnish-American dad grew up about 35 miles from HIbbing and we used to visit his siblings/cousins who were still on their own farms (not miners or socialists). I’ve been back there many times. And that’s not all – my dad was in the Merchant Marines (like the very anti-fascist Guthrie) in large part because of the union wages.
Grown-Up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Calumet Massacre of 1913
by Daniel Wolff
2017 / 345 pages
read by Dennis Boutsikaris 8h 49m
rating: 8 / nonfiction – history/biography
Also, I’ve read Woody Guthrie’s novel, House of Earth as well as that of Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One. Still, I certainly don’t consider myself very learned at all about either of them.
The Calumet Massacre of 1913 was a Christmas Eve fire which took place in a union hall in Calumet Michigan, 1913. I think I may have heard of that incident prior, but I’m not sure. Anyway, the subjects in the title, Dylan, Guthrie and a massacre (by the mine bosses?), get interwoven because as Dylan grows up Wolff says he has a certain amount of anger (as in James Dean) which finds expression in Guthrie’s music. (I’ve read other interpretations but Dylan is a slippery character in some ways.)
It’s a lot of territory in Wolff’s hands and the narrative covers the biographies of Dylan and Guthrie and then goes back to the idiotic ideas of Louis Agassiz (a very important scientist and businessman from back in the 19th century) and travels forward to 1970 or so – (a change in Dylan’s career there). Along the way Wolff covers how various labor incidents and movements affected the lives of Guthrie and Dylan – (fueled their anger, so to speak) and how the unions and other movements, civil rights, anti-war, etc. got intertwined in the 1960s.
The book is a bit of everything – biographies, discography, social and union history, and the ways Guthrie and Dylan were radicalized – or not. And it’s packed with little tid-bits of information. lthough it is divided kind of between the “massacre” of 1913, Guthrie’s life and career between 1912-1967, and Dylan, 1914 – . There’s a bit of an epilogue re Calumet –
And it sometimes feels a bit of a mishmash what with the major players/events coming in 1913 (and prior), Guthrie of the 1930s and ’40s, and Dylan of the the 1960s (and later), but by the end it comes together and makes sense.
I’ll likely read this again when it comes up for discussion – but it will be a bit at a time – maybe get the Kindle version to go with it – we’ll see. Maybe it will gel better. – I’ll take notes