Saturday, February 16, 2008

In Praise of Studs Terkel

I just finished reading the book Hope Dies Last by Studs Terkel. I had forgotten, over the years, that Studs Terkel is a master of Oral History. The dust cover of this book has a quote: "There is no one in the world who can listen like Studs Terkel." This is true. In addition, Studs Terkel is able to edit an oral history and make the words come alive. Although this is one of his most recent books, Terkel has produced some of the most billiant oral history collections around. He has published The Good War ( he won a pulitzer prize for this one), Working, Will the Circle Be Unbroken? and several others.

Hope Dies Last is an excellent study in people, ordinary people, who work to make a difference in life. With this work, Terkel takes us back to the New Deal and World War II, and brings us forward to the present day. All the while, we are exploring society through the eyes of a group of inspirational people. We get to witness the major events of the 20th century, from the war to the Red Scare; to the labor movement of the 1960s and 70s; to the civil rights movment; all the way up to Sept. 11 and the attack of the twin towers. The major question throughout these histories is: why do people continue to strive for the betterment of mankind? After civil rights workers or labor organizers get stomped down, again and again, Why do they continue to rise up and work for a better tommorrow? As Studs shows, hope for a brighter future is the driving force in most of us. It simply is more apparent in some, such as these ordinary individuals.

This book is all very inspirational. Not only does Studs Terkel teach us about the durability of hope, but he is giving us a new twist, and a better understanding, of America in the 20th Century.

Thanks Studs.

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