Just a Quote

In 1974, journalist Studs Terkel published a book called Working, an oral history of what people do for a living. Terkel was a 1930s-era socialist from Chicago, but for the most part he kept his opinions out of the book. He let his subjects speak. One man he interviewed described what it was like to be a machinist, another talked about spending his life as a doorman in an apartment building.

Working became a huge bestseller, and then a Broadway musical. James Taylor wrote part of the score. The play was nominated for five Tony Awards. Liberals loved the book because it highlighted the dignity of working people. If Working came out today, how many copies would it sell in Brookline or Marin County? Not enough to justify publishing it. Unless the machinist was transitioning to a new gender or fighting immigration authorities over an expired visa, modern elites wouldn’t care.

5 thoughts on “Just a Quote”

  1. Loved the excerpt and then started checking about Terkel who was “born to Russian Jewish immigrants.” [wiki]

    Found some interviews from Work online in Russian:

    Terkel also published books like “Race: What Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession” and

    // “The Good War”: An Oral History of World War II (1984) is an oral history of World War II compiled by Studs Terkel. The work received the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

    “The Good War” consists of a series of interviews with various men and women from across the globe who directly experienced the events leading up to, including, and following the Second World War.


  2. Have you tried this guessing game?

    Как вы думаете, легко с первого взгляда опознать, картина написана великим художником (официально прописанным в учебниках, как “великий”) или же его современником, который никак не прославился?

    morreth wrote about how she selected all the correct paintings, so I tried too.


    1. There is a very easy way to guess. If a painting offers anything other than a faithful, “photographic” reproduction of reality, it’s art. If it offers nothing else, it isn’t. The ones that make you work, even just a little bit, are the real deal.

      With this in mind, it’s easy.


  3. Terkel was a remarkable writer and columnist in his day. To a large extent, those roles don’t exist anymore, not in the way they did. I still own a hardback copy of the book. Today, there are people who would read it, and people who wouldn’t be interested, just as their were then. Those who want to find some dignity in manual labor should cherish it. Others who care about how we got to where we are would find value in it. Those who don’t care, not so much.
    We haven’t settled on how fast manual labor is shrinking or what to do with people whose jobs vanish. That’s happening faster than ever before, and the auto industry is just starting another round of adding to the toll. By the way, did you know that among midsize companies in the US, the largest category is the car dealership. Those are/were major employers, and they’re shrinking rather seriously.


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