Kristen S Kuhns [ksk]

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Kristen's Story > Categories > Friends & other Crazy People

"A Voice Has Been Silenced: Studs Terkel" 


Date Range: 05/16/1912 To 1969   Comments: 2   Views: 9,192
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You might have been sitting next to him in a bar. A quiet night like any number of  other nights, unremarkable in its demeanor. A man is sitting next to you, nursing his watered down drink, listening to the old wood of the bar stool sighing. He wonders how many voices have sat on this spot, spilling their drinks and their woes. He makes eye contact with you, a slight nod of recognition. He knows you; he knows Everyman. After a while he raises his glass slightly in a mocking gesture of solidarity. Your expression invites him to share a moment.

"So, what's your story?" he asks.

The thing is, this guy listens. He REALLY listens. And you talk, and you talk, and you talk talk talk. You talk as though nobody ever listened to you before. Slightly placed questions aimed at prodding you on to talk some more, saying things you'd only say to a stranger passing in the night, things you don't tell your wife, your children, your friends.

When the night is over, he shakes both your hands and leaves his card.

Studs Terkel

You fold it in half, sticking it inside your wallet. Your night feels oddly fulfilled, although you're sure you'll never see this passing-in-the- night, slightly bent, bright-eyed man again. But you feel vindicated, important. You were listened to. And for a night, your words mattered very much to this man, this stranger.

The master has passed. Studs Terkel, the master storyteller and one of the most famous oral historians, has died today at the age of 96. He is joined by his wife Ida, and survived by his son Paul.

If you have not had a chance to read any of his books, I highly urge you to do so. Collections of Stories of those he met.

You are in them. I am in them. Everyman is in them.

Godspeed, Studs. Your voice will be missed.

The official notice:

Author Studs Terkel dead at 96
Fri, October 31, 2008

CHICAGO — Pulitzer Prize-winning author and activist Studs Terkel has died at age 96.

Colleague and close friend Thom Clark says Terkel’s son, Dan Terkell, confirmed his death today.

He died at home at 2:40 p.m., Clark said.

Studs Terkel is best known for his street-wise portrayals of the working class.

He contrasted rich and poor along the same Chicago street in the 1966 novel “Division Street: America,” explored the Depression in 1970’s “Hard Times” and chronicled how people felt about their jobs in 1974’s “Working.”

He won a Pulitzer in 1985 for his remembrances of the Second World War in his novel “The Good War.”

Dan Terkell issued a statement through Clark.

“My dad led a long, full, eventful, sometimes tempestuous, but very satisfying life,” Terkell said, describing his father’s death as “peaceful, no agony. This is what he wanted.”

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Member Since
Aug 2007
Kristen Kuhns said:
posted on Oct 31, 2008
hope or arrogance

I am toying with a draft of a letter I wrote to Mr. Terkel in hopes of having him do an appearance. Hope or arrogance that he would, I don't know - he's not been seen much in public in 2008, but here it sits. I hover over the delete key, but keep it for a while.

Member Since
Aug 2008
Adara Bernstein said:
posted on Nov 02, 2008
Studs Terkel

I loved his book on dying and death. Here is the Chicago Tribune's tribute: WHY STUDS TERKEL MATTERED Studs Terkel gave a voice to the voiceless By Patrick T. Reardon | Tribune reporter November 2, 2008 Picture a young Stuart Dybek in blue-collar Chicago, feeling at one with the pulse of life on the city's streets and finding, through the radio, a kindred soul in Studs Terkel. "For me, growing up in Chicago in the '50s and '60s, he was a light in the wilderness," Dybek said a few hours after Terkel's death Friday at age 96. "That subversive radio show he had was an alternative education for me, an alternative vision of America, that I was so hungry for. "My friends and I would sit around the radio like it was a little fire we warmed ourselves by." Later in life, a successful author himself, Dybek was one of the generations of writers who sat with Terkel in his radio studio and came away amazed at his close reading of their works. "We knew he was smart, but until we sat down and talked to him, we didn't know he was a genius," Dybek said. "He read everything. He led such an examined life. He remembered everything." And, as he recalled the man who had been his literary inspiration and then became his friend, Dybek had to stop for several moments, choked with emotion. He wept. Louis "Studs" Terkel, to give him the full name he rarely used, was born in New York City but came to embody Chicago as no other writer or cultural figure ever has. And few have left such a deep literary imprint. He took the obscure academic exercise known as oral history and turned it into literature. In transcribing the words and hopes of ordinary people, he gave voice to the voiceless. But, in the tradition of Jacob Riis and Upton Sinclair, he used his words, whether on radio or on the page, to celebrate the People with a capital "P" and to protest their oppression by the stupid and powerful. He was a national figure. But, deeper than that, he was a Chicagoan. He loved the city, and the city returned the favor. Anne Clark Bartlett, the chair of the English department at DePaul University, was a junior high teenager in southern Ohio when she first read one of his books. "It made me fall in love with Chicago," she said. A child of the Depression, Terkel never lost his sense of the human community and the interconnectedness of all people. "So many people think they outgrow liberalism or idealism or thinking they can change the world, and he didn't," said WXRT-FM 93.1 disc jokey Terri Hemmert. "Oh, our beloved Studs," said Martha Lavey, the artistic director at Steppenwolf Theatre. "What a beautiful, compassionate, robust human presence he was. My sadness is that he didn't live to see the election of the first African-American president of the United States." It would be wrong to say Terkel was colorblind. He was deeply curious, deeply intrigued, about all the colors of the rainbow, whether in skin tones or political stripes or philosophical shadings. His only bias was on behalf of the powerless, the oppressed and the unheard. And those on the margins responded in kind. Few people realize it, but Terkel is the only white writer to be inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent at Chicago State University. "He was not afraid of other cultures. He was comfortable among all cultures," said Haki Madhubuti, the groundbreaking African-American poet and founder of Third World Press on the South Side. It was Madhubuti who nominated Terkel for induction. The approval vote was unanimous. "America is a better place as a result of Studs Terkel being here," he said. Terkel didn't fit the stereotype of the ego-centered writer. Indeed, much of his writing was putting other people's words on the page. "As a writer, he was a great listener," said Reginald Gibbons, poet, novelist and Northwestern University English professor. "He gave people an irresistible invitation to say what he could see they had it in them to tell everyone else. They might never have said it otherwise." Gibbons also noted something about Terkel that was often overlooked because of his social activism. He didn't just carp at the failures of society, he was a drum major for life—a celebrant of the joy of living. "The great thing about him," Gibbons said, "was not just that he was a populist or a writer of protest against injustice and the disparagement of working people, but he also gave people permission to love what was good in their lives. "He got so much pleasure out of life.",0,2482597.story