Working for a Living

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.

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!!

3 thoughts on “Working for a Living

  1. I’m with you and cool to remember Studs. Important to me too and to my students when I was teaching high school. I also loved the musical based on his book, not really as a whole but the pieces of it were great. Do you know it?
    I knew when i clikced on our blog to see what’s new with you, I’d find something cool.


  2. inmate1972

    There’s a great Bob Edwards interview with Studs. You might be able to get it on his free podcasts. To be honest, I never thought about how old he is, he seems sort of immortal, doesn’t he? He and Daniel Shore from NPR (who i just learned will be 91 this year).


  3. I’ve never heard about the musical. I’ll have to go check that out. And I’ll definitely download the podcast of the Edwards interview (I love Bob Edwards). I never really thought about Terkel’s age, either (or Daniel Shore). Definitely why I was so shocked to hear he was turning 96.


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