November 13, 2008
Studs Terkel —
Life, Faith, and Death

We remember Studs Terkel, who recently died at the age of 96. The legendary interviewer chronicled decades of ordinary life and tumultuous change in U.S. culture. We visited him in his Chicago home in 2004 and drew out his wisdom and warmth on large existential themes of life and death. A lifelong agnostic, Studs Terkel shared his thoughts on religion as he'd observed it in his conversation partners, in culture, and in his own encounters with loss and mortality.

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Terkel was a radio personality and author who published 20 books on central themes and events in American life. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1984 oral history of World War II, The Good War. He died on October 31, 2008.

Pertinent Posts

Studs Terkel's death reminds our online editor of the opportunity he passed up.

Selected Readings

Studs Turkel and the Voices of the Great Depression

Studs Terkel's final book, P.S.: Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening, is a collection of pages he uncovered from the "old junk" in his workroom while doing research for a memoir; "…torn sheets of wrinkled paper under the desk, behind the bookcases, beneath the couch, tossed in boxes, everywhere." That old junk includes transcripts, interviews, and other writings from his lifetime of conversations. In the book's preface, Terkel explains how he compiled transcript excerpts from his 1971-1972 conversations with people about the Great Depression:

Delbert Lee Tibbs

He had served two years on death row in the state of Florida. He had been convicted by an all-white jury of rape and murder. Years later, the sentence was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court for lack of evidence.

Hideko Tamura (Tammy) Snider

She is a psychiatric social worker at the University of Chicago Hospital. A "hibakusha," a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, she has written a memoir recounting the moment: One Sunny Day.

Vernon Jarrett

He retired as a columnist for the Chicago Tribune as well as the Chicago Sun-Times. He had begun his newspaper career as a journalist for the Chicago Defender. For years, lie conducted a weekly television program on Chicago's ABC affiliate.

Kurt Vonnegut

A writer. Among his more celebrated works is Slaughterhouse-Five, a novel inspired by his experience as an American POW in Dresden, during the Allied bombings. His most recent sardonic work is God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian. He is honorary president of the American Humanist Association.

Uta Hagen

She is an actress and has won two Tony Awards: one for her performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the other for her role in The Country Girl. She was equally celebrated as Shaw's St. Joan, as Desdemona to Paul Robeson's Otello, and as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. In her later years, she was acclaimed as Mrs. Klein, a drama based on the life of a renowned child psychiatrist. In her younger years, after an appearance in "a terrible play" in Brooklyn, she was described by Alexander Woolcott, drama critic of the New Yorker, as "the Duse of Brooklyn." She has appeared in a few television plays and "once in a while in a movie." She is the founder of the HB Playwright's Foundation, [*The foundation is named after her late husband, Herbert Berghof, a noted drama teacher and director.] a drama school and theater in Greenwich Village.

About the Image

Photo series of Studs Terkel from the book WRITERS: Photographs by Nancy Crampton.

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