Saturday, November 01, 2008

Studs Terkel

I was sad to hear Studs Terkel passed away yesterday. He was so smart and gifted - a great listener, writer and talker - plus he had an impish sense of humor about the whole thing.

I watched an interview on CSpan Book TV today, that Studs gave when he was 95 years old, and he was still sharp as a tack. He talked about being blacklisted as a communist sympathizer during the McCarthy era. He joked that when the FBI would come to visit he would try to engage them in debates such as "if the communist party said they were opposed to cancer - would I have to say I supported cancer?" They didn't think that was funny so he'd ask them if they'd like to share a triple martini. He talked about his friendship with Mike Royko, Billie Holiday and Mahalia Jackson - his love of jazz and his electic musical taste. He's best known to me as someone who wrote about everyday people.

If a person wanted to understand the history of the U.S. in the 20th century Studs Terkel would be a good source. He was a supporter of Barack Obama and said he wanted to live to see the election - I imagine when he died yesterday he was satisfied that he was seeing the beginning of a new more hopeful stage of American politics.

At the end of the interview below he says Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, once told him she "was looking forward to a world that would make it easier for people to behave decently". He says he can't put it any better than that.