Saturday, November 1, 2008

Studs Terkel, 1912-2008

The Chicago Tribune reports this morning on the death of author/radio-host/actor/activist Studs Terkel at the age of 96.

I was first introduced to Terkel's work in one of my college courses called "Work and Love," the premise of which was that these are the two main components of one's life ... or something like that. It's been 20 years since that class, so forgive me for not remembering the purpose exactly. But it was one of the best classes I'd ever had, partially because we read great books such as The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm and Studs Terkel's Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.

Working was published in 1974 and was on the required reading list for my sociology class in 1988. I remember being fascinated by his ability to, as the Tribune writes, "get to the heart of what people really thought and felt about the work they do every day. " I can't remember if we were required to read the whole book or only selected portions, but I read the whole thing and still have it on my bookshelf today. (A couple months ago, a coworker - who is younger than me by several years - saw it on my credenza in my office and exclaimed, "Oh, my God, I love Studs Terkel!" We talked about how a book published in 1974 could still be relevant in 2008.)

He had a devotion to his wife for 60 years that mirrored the concepts that we were learning about in that college class long ago. Anyone who has been in the situation of losing a loved one after six decades of marriage can relate to Terkel's words, as written in today's Chicago Tribune tribute:

"It's hard. It's very hard," he said the day she died. "She was seven days older than me, and I would always joke that I married an older woman. That's the thing: Who's gonna laugh at my jokes? At those jokes I've told a million times? That's the thing ... ... Who's gonna be there to laugh?"

Those of us who are watching the fading away of loved ones in similar situations can sense Terkel's heartbreak.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Terkel has a book coming out this month ("P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening,") which I'd learned about several weeks ago and added to my plan-to-read list.

Recently, Terkel seemed to be living in two worlds - that of this life and one where, according to
The Chicago Tribune's literary editor, Elizabeth Taylor "...the shadows were closing in. To touch his arms was to feel a living skeleton. He displayed a mind still sharp with its ability to recall names and dates and places from his lengthy and storied past. But he was facing the future too."Remember those old Ivory soap commercials, 'Ivory Soap, 99.44 percent pure '? Well, I am 99.44 percent dead," he said."

Rest in peace, Studs. Your work here is done and will continue to be loved.

No comments: