Chicago Legend Studs Terkel Dies at 96

Pulitzer prize-winning author, broadcaster, and activist Studs Turkel has died in his Chicago home at the age of 96.

Known for his wide-ranging work in recording oral histories, as well as over half a decade working as a radio host in Chicago, Turkel also gifted the world with some excellent quotes.

After learning of his passing on Friday, one, in particular, seems best suited to his remembrance:

“With optimism, you look upon the sunny side of things. People say, ‘Studs, you’re an optimist.’ I never said I was an optimist. I have hope because what’s the alternative to hope? Despair? If you have despair, you might as well put your head in the oven.”

May he rest in peace.

Author-radio host-actor-activist and Chicago symbol Louis “Studs” Terkel died today at his Chicago home at age 96.

At his bedside was a copy of his latest book, “P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening,” scheduled for a November release.

The author-radio host-actor-activist and Chicago symbol has died. “My epitaph? My epitaph will be ‘Curiosity did not kill this cat,'” he once said.

Turkel was dedicated to chronicling oral histories of America’s working class, for which he received numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize.

Terkel won a 1985 Pulitzer Prize for “The Good War,” remembrances of World War II; contrasted rich and poor along the same Chicago street in “Division Street: America,” 1966; limned the Depression in “Hard Times,” 1970; and chronicled how people feel about their jobs in “Working,” 1974.

For his oral histories, he interviewed his subjects on tape, then transcribed and sifted. “What first comes out of an interview are tons of ore; you have to get that gold dust in your hands,” he wrote in his memoir. “Now, how does it become a necklace or a ring or a gold watch? You have to get the form; you have to mold the gold dust.”

The New York Times heralded Terkel as a “chronicler of the American Everyman” and credited him with establishing the oral history as “an important historical genre”.

Although detractors derided him as a sentimental populist whose views were simplistic and occasionally maudlin, Mr. Terkel was widely credited with transforming oral history into a popular literary form. In 1985 a reviewer for The Financial Times of London characterized Mr. Terkel’s books as “completely free of sociological claptrap, armchair revisionism and academic moralizing.”

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