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Studs Terkel


As many others have already reported, Studs Terkel passed away on Friday at age 96. I can't say I was at all surprised - you have to expect it from anyone that age, obviously, and Edward Lifson mentioned several weeks ago that he had heard Studs was in his last days - nor am I particularly saddened. For him, at least. Don't grieve at all for Studs, for he lived an incredibly long, joyous and productive life. (I'd guess that one of the few regrets he would have had was not living to see Barack Obama in the White House.) Instead, grieve for the rest of us who now have to live in a world without Studs' warmth, compassion and wit. He was a tireless champion of common sense and the common man, and his departure leaves us everyday people without one of our greatest advocates.

Growing up in Chicago, I was inevitably familiar with his name. My parents had a copy of Working on the bookshelf, though I don't remember anyone reading it, as I didn't either back then. I first read his prose from his introduction to Nelson Algren's Chicago: City on the Make, which I first read in college; Studs provided the perfect overture to what has become one of my very favorite books. But I didn't read Terkel proper until several years later, when on a warm day off from work I stopped at a used bookstore on Broadway Street in Chicago and chanced upon an old copy of Division Street: America, which I bought and carried to the lakefront. I sat on the boulders along the shore, basking in the sun, fully absorbed in his conversations with everyday people - their joys, sorrows, hopes and fears - and in a way felt, from the yellowed and musty-smelling pages of that book, a little more connected with the world. Discovering the rest of his works during the ensuing years has been nothing less than a fascinating and often exhilarating experience.

When a major public figure passes away, particularly a very elderly one, it's almost become cliche to say that they don't make them like him or her any longer, and that the deceased will truly be missed. But in the case of Studs Terkel, those words are perfectly appropriate. He was one of a kind, and will truly be missed.

Farewell, Studs.

November 2, 2008 in Books, Chicago Observations | Permalink


You liked Stephen Deutch photography - well, his brother, Alfred Deutch (or Dutch, his nom de plume), was also an artist in Chicago and designed some of the Chicagoan covers. The third brother, Eugene Deutch, is a reknown ceramist of the Bauhaus school, also from Chicago. Three very talented Hungarian, Jewish, Chicago artists!

Posted by: carole Deutch at May 5, 2010 12:05:50 AM