Last Friday was the final interview in the Grand Central StoryCorps booth. It was also the ninety-sixth birthday of the very first person to be interviewed in that booth, the master of the revelatory interview, Studs Terkel.
Ninety-six. It’s pretty impressive. Especially since he is still going still going strong, especially since even his early work remains current, relevant.
I read Working a dozen or so years ago when I was teaching a pre-GED class and we were doing a unit on work based on the excellent lessons laid out in (my friend and mentor) John Gordon’s More Than a Job. I was preparing to use an excerpt from Working and thought I should go directly to the source. My students were strong readers and I figured they wouldn’t have any trouble with the text. So I picked up a copy at Strand and started reading.
What do I love about this book? What does it have that books like Gig don’t quite get, don’t quite measure up to? I think it has something to do with the seamlessness of the narratives, the unselfconscious telling of each story. The people in Working are so completely there with you at all times. I never have a sense of an interview being conducted, never feel a false note.
I don’t know how well or even if the stories would go over well with the students I teach now. Back when I first started reading it, I was teaching a much older group. I may have to try it out a few times before the end of term and see what happens.
(Raising my virtual champagne flute … ) Happy belated 96th, Studs!!