Touch and Go: A Memoir

Touch and Go: A Memoir

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by Studs Terkel
     
 

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Chosen as a best book of the year in 2007 by the Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, and Playboy, Studs Terkel’s memoir Touch and Go is “history from a highly personal point of view, by one who has helped make it” (Kirkus).

Terkel takes us through his childhood and into his early experiences—as a law…  See more details below

Overview

Chosen as a best book of the year in 2007 by the Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, and Playboy, Studs Terkel’s memoir Touch and Go is “history from a highly personal point of view, by one who has helped make it” (Kirkus).

Terkel takes us through his childhood and into his early experiences—as a law student during the Depression, as a young theatergoer, and eventually as an actor himself on both radio and the stage—offering a brilliant and often hilarious portrait of Chicago in the 1920s and ’30s. Describing his beginnings as a disc jockey after World War II, his involvement with progressive politics during the McCarthy era, and later his career as an interviewer and oral historian, Touch and Go is a testament to Terkel’s “generosity of spirit, sense of social justice and commitment to capture on his ever present tape recorder the voices of those who otherwise would not be heard” (The New York Times Book Review). It is a brilliant lifetime achievement from the man the Washington Post has called “the most distinguished oral historian of our time.”

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Editorial Reviews

Dan Barry
The volume has been cobbled together, but is not a mishmash. Terkel, a proud technophobe, banged out some memories on a typewriter and resurrected a few others from several previous works…The rest has been rounded out by his conversations with an old friend and associate, Sydney Lewis. What emerges is an engrossing stream-of-consciousness meditation on the 20th century by a man who, it seems, never forgave himself for being born three weeks after the sinking of the Titanic, and so he vowed in the crib to bear witness—to everything. Imagine his life's checklist: the Roaring Twenties in Chicago, the Depression, World War II: done, done, done. The golden age of radio? Yep. The advent of television? Had his own show. The blacklist? Was among the so-honored. It goes on.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

After a lifetime of interviewing others, Terkel finally turns the tape recorder on himself. At least, that's what he would have us think. Terkel's memoir is more a medley of all the extraordinary characters he's encountered through his career, from the adult loners of his youth in Chicago's Wells-Grand Hotel, to New Deal politicians. Terkel details his long journey through law school, the air force, theater, radio, early television, sports commentary, jazz criticism and oral history. Surprisingly, a 12-time author who has built a career on emerging media is a hopeless Luddite. Unskilled with his tape recorder, the bread and butter of an oral historian, Terkel modestly attributes his knack for getting people to open up about their lives to his own "ineptitude" and "slovenliness." This memoir, however, is a fitting portrait of a legendary talent who seeks truth with compassion, intelligence, moxie and panache. Never one to back down from authority, Terkel cracks jokes in law school classrooms and filibusters FBI visits by quoting long passages from Thoreau and Paine. He pogos between decades, reminding the reader that knowing history doesn't mean memorizing chronologies so much as it does attending to the lessons and voices of the past. He laments the "national Alzheimer's" afflicting this country, and fears the consequences if we don't regain consciousness. Americans might get to know their collective past a lot better if all history lessons were as absorbing and entertaining as this one. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Washington Post
Extraordinary, widely praised memoir from "the most distinguished oral historian of our time"
Library Journal

Having chronicled the lives of nearly everyone else, 95-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner Terkel (The Good War) now tells his own story. He recalls early days in New York and his move to Chicago at age nine. Personalities such as socialist labor leader Eugene V. Debs, statesman William Jennings Bryan, and lawyer Clarence Darrow emerge as Terkel comments on the politics of the 1920s and 1930s, his liberal tendencies apparent even at a young age. After serving in World War II, he worked as a disk jockey and then had a television variety show called Studs' Place. Most compelling, though, are Terkel's reflections on his activities as a progressive during the McCarthy era, when he was blacklisted and thrown out of work despite his show's popularity. He writes of FBI visits to his home and his struggle to make a living. Throughout these reminiscences, he maintains his sense of humor, interest in the common person, and love for the arts. While at times a little disjointed and jumbled, this memoir provides an insightful and fascinating look at America's last century through the eyes of one of its most astute observers. Recommended for large public libraries.
—Nancy R. Ives

Kirkus Reviews
The father of popular oral history turns 95 and finally turns the microphone on himself to craft an emotionally charged (but never sentimental), politically charged (but never formulaic) and energy-charged account of his days. A Chicago institution, Terkel (Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith, 2001, etc.) calls himself a "radical conservative," adding, "I want to conserve the blue of the skies, the potability of our drinking water, the First Amendment of the Constitution, and whatever sanity we have left." Getting to that position has required a long apprenticeship, beginning in an immigrant Chicago with a tailor father and a seamstress mother from the Jewish Old World. Chicago was a city of gangsters and speakeasies, of marked divisions between newcomers and natives. It was a city of radical politics and labor activism, a different place from today's city, which is very much like any other-for, as Terkel laments, "the unique landmarks of American cities have been replaced by Golden Arches, Red Lobsters, Pizza Huts and Marriotts, so you can no longer tell one neon wilderness from another." That's not just an old codger's cry for an irrecoverable golden age, though. As he writes, "I don't want to romanticize the past, become an old reactionary, an old fart saying, ‘In the good old days. . .' There were bad old days, too." Indeed, Terkel harbors little nostalgia, especially for the McCarthyite days in which he, though a popular DJ, was hounded from the airwaves for political reasons. He had his revenge, a tale unfolded in one of the more pleasing of the many pleasing anecdotes in this leisurely paced congeries of stories within stories.Whether recounting the lives of working people, getting inside the heads of political leaders or interrogating history, Terkel is a self-aware and self-effacing presence who happily knows he has been at the center of many things-stories he gladly tells. History from a highly personal point of view, by one who has helped make it.
From the Publisher
"Emotionally charged (but never sentimental), politically charged (but never formulaic) and energy-charged.... Terkel is a self-aware and self-effacing presence who happily knows he has been at the center of many things." —Kirkus Starred Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595585875
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
10/01/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
466 KB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Emotionally charged (but never sentimental), politically charged (but never formulaic) and energy-charged.... Terkel is a self-aware and self-effacing presence who happily knows he has been at the center of many things." —-Kirkus Starred Review

Meet the Author

Studs Terkel (1912–2008) was an actor in radio soap operas, a disk jockey, a radio commentator, and a television emcee, and he is the author of Working and Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression.

Norman Dietz, a writer, an actor, and a solo performer, has recorded over 150 audiobooks, many of which have earned him awards from AudioFile magazine, the ALA, and Publishers Weekly. Additionally, AudioFile named Norman one of the Best Voices of the Century.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
May 16, 1912
Date of Death:
October 31, 2008
Place of Birth:
New York, NY
Place of Death:
Chicago, IL
Education:
J.D., University of Chicago, 1934

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