Too personal to capture an objective view of Chicago, too much in a hop, skip, and a jump style to clearly focus on any aspect of the city, Terkel's latest book is entertaining, nostalgic, and a paean to his town. Managing to hark back to his own boyhood experiences and relate them to Chicago at large and occasionally voicing his own political philosophy, the author offers a kaleidoscopic tour. Policemen, dance ballrooms, race relations, WPA art, street art (not graffiti), and museum art, the Terkel rooming house, hospitals, a snowstorm, professional baseball, the Chicago Symphony, and the southside's reaction to Joe Louis's victory over Max Schmeling all come into view. Over 120 evocative photos enhance the text. Primarily regional in interest. Roger W. Fromm, Bloomsburg Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib.
One of the greatest oral historians of the 20th century, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, actor, and broadcaster Studs Terkel was a national treasure and a beloved institution in his native Chicago. His award-winning books, based on conversations with Americans from all walks of life, form a unique chronicle of a nation in the throes of socio-political change.
As a young boy in the early 1920s, Louis "Studs" Terkel moved with his family from New York to Chicago, the sprawling, high-energy city he would call home for the rest of his life. His parents managed hotels catering to a varied and colorful clientele. Listening to the conversations of the tenants, young Terkel developed an early interest in people and their stories and a wide-ranging intellectual curiosity that would lead him in many directions.
He received his law degree from the University of Chicago, but never became a practicing attorney, Instead, he worked briefly in Washington, D.C., then returned to Chicago to take a job in FDR's Works Progress Administration acting and writing plays. In 1939, he married Ida Goldberg. The marriage endured for 60 years, until Ida's death in 1999. He joined the Army during WWII but was discharged because of perforated eardrums. Around this time, he embarked on a long, varied broadcasting career as a sportscaster, news commentator, and disc jockey. He ventured into TV in the 1950s with a relaxed, breezy variety show that helped define the Chicago School of Television, but returned to radio in 1952 with the a daily program of music and interviews that continued for the next 45 years. Among a constellation of memorable guests were Buster Keaton, Billie Holiday, James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Tennessee Williams, Gloria Steinem, and Bob Dylan.
Although his first book Giants of Jazz was published in 1957, Terkel's writing career began in earnest a decade later with Division Street, a book of transcribed interviews with Chicagoans from every walk of life. Hailed by The New Yorker as "totally absorbing," this groundbreaking study paved the way for bestselling oral histories of the Great Depression (Hard Times), the working class (Working), WWII (the Pulitzer Prize winner The Good War), and growing old in America (Coming of Age). He also penned several memoirs, including Talking to Myself (1977), My American Century (1997), and Touch and Go (2007).
Active and engaged to the end, Terkel died in October of 2008 at the age of 96. In its obituary, the Chicago Tribune reprinted this epigrammatic quote from the iconic writer: "My epitaph? My epitaph will be, 'Curiosity did not kill this cat."
Good To Know
Terkel's famous nickname derives from the fictional character Studs Lonigan from James T. Farrell's 1930s coming-of-age trilogy.
Famously outspoken, Terkel was blacklisted from television during the McCarthy era for his "incendiary" political views. Fortunately, he found a wider audience when he was hired by Chicago's fine arts radio station WFMT, where his program was a daily staple for 45 years.
Instantly recognizable by his attire, Terkel always wore a red-checked shirt, grey trousers, and a blue blazer.
He appeared in Eight Men Out, John Sayles's 1988 film about the Chicago Black Sox Scandal of 1919.