November 4, 2008
RIP: Studs Terkel
by Dennis Johnson
Raconteur, radio and television personality, movie actor, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel died at his home in Chicago on Friday at the age of 96. In an obituary by Caryn Rousseau of the Associated Press, his son, Dan Terkel, “said his father died at home, and described his death as “peaceful, no agony. This is what he wanted.” A New York Times obituary by WIlliam Grimes details how radio and television interviewer Terkel was turned into a best-selling author by legendary publisher Andre Schiffrin, who worked with him on all his books, from his first — Division Street — to his most recent, Touch and Go; they were finalizing a last book together — the manuscript was on Terkel’s bedside — at the time of his death. In a remembrance from the Chicago Tribune, Barrack Obama, among others, pay homage to Terkel. And in an hommage from the Washington Post, Paul Farhi offers: “The perfect Terkel quote: ‘When the Chinese Wall was built, where did the masons go for lunch?’ he said when he received an honorary National Book Award medal in 1997. ‘When Caesar conquered Gaul, was there not even a cook in the army? And here’s the big one: When the Armada sank, you read that King Philip wept. Were there no other tears? And that’s what I believe oral history is about. It’s about those who shed those other tears, who on rare occasions of triumph laugh that other laugh.'”
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.