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Feeling good

Michael Rogin, 11 January 1990

The Great Divide: Second Thoughts on the American Dream 
by Studs Terkel.
Hamish Hamilton, 439 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12667 3
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More than Bread: Ethnography of a Soup Kitchen 
by Irene Glasser.
University of Alabama Press, 180 pp., $22.95, November 1988, 0 8173 0397 9
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... States connect their private lives to their sense of national well-being. The great divide, as Studs Terkel uses the phrase, cuts Americans off from any disturbing connections to their forebears, their contemporaries and even themselves. First and most obviously, the great divide separates the rich from the poor, white from black, those with tolerable ...

Post-War Memories

Danny Karlin, 19 December 1985

‘The Good War’: An Oral History of World War Two 
by Studs Terkel.
Hamish Hamilton, 589 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 241 11493 4
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Truth, Dare or Promise: Girls Growing up in the Fifties 
edited by Liz Heron.
Virago, 248 pp., £4.95, June 1985, 0 86068 596 9
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... find, in the two books under review, the question magnified and re-echoing, but without response. Studs Terkel has undertaken a hugely ambitious project: to encompass the experience of World War Two for a whole American generation (a few other nationalities get a look in, but the emphasis is mainly, and rightly, on the people he knows best). Liz ...

Vodka + Caesium

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Nostalgia for the USSR, 20 October 2016

Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future 
by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Anna Gunin and Arch Tait.
Penguin, 294 pp., £9.99, April 2016, 978 0 241 27053 0
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Second-Hand Time: The Last of the Soviets 
by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Bela Shayevich.
Fitzcarraldo, 694 pp., £14.99, May 2016, 978 1 910695 11 1
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... are collective oral histories, of similar genre, though completely different in tone, to those of Studs Terkel in the United States, whom she has probably never read. Her main influence as far as genre is concerned was the Belorussian writer Ales Adamovich, who in the 1970s (with Daniil Granin) collected the testimonies of wartime Leningrad survivors in ...

Literary Guy

Ian Jack, 19 June 1986

A North Sea Journey 
by A. Alvarez.
Hodder, 191 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 340 37347 4
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... He would have done better to have left it behind, or at least taken lessons in its use from Studs Terkel. Far too many people are allowed to describe what they do (complicated) or what they think (not always interesting) at far too great a length in what looks like a careful rearrangement of their own words. We don’t get to know many people on ...

All Woman

Michael Mason, 23 May 1985

‘Men’: A Documentary 
by Anna Ford.
Weidenfeld, 196 pp., £10.95, March 1985, 0 297 78468 4
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Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure 
by John Cleland, edited by Peter Sabor.
Oxford, 256 pp., £1.95, February 1985, 0 19 281634 9
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... can yield much interest even if they are approached in an informal fashion. Mass Observation and Studs Terkel are not vitiated by being relatively miscellaneous and unsystematic. The main quality required in the observer is that he or she should be receptive and fair-minded towards the material in question. This is a wisdom which Ms Ford recognises, but ...


Danny Karlin: The Boss at Wembley, 1 August 1985

... at all. ‘I see the United States government as a little baby brat,’ says an Indian woman to Studs Terkel in his American Dreams: Lost and Found (1982). ‘It’s a 200-year-old kid. They gave us dual citizenship in 1924. How can a little teeny stupid 150-year-old government grant citizenship to a Yakima Indian who has been here for eight million ...


Jeremy Treglown, 6 August 1992

Writers on World War Two: An Anthology 
edited by Mordecai Richler.
Chatto, 752 pp., £18.99, February 1992, 0 7011 3912 9
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Legacies and Ambiguities: Post-war Fiction and Culture in West Germany and Japan 
edited by Ernestine Schlant and Thomas Rimer.
Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins, 323 pp., $35, February 1992, 0 943875 30 7
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... and among the more unexpected selections are the reminiscences of Soviet women, collected, Studs Terkel-wise, by Julia Voznesenskaya. The reaction to The Naked and the Dead perpetuated into peacetime one of the standard responses of reviewers during a war. Suddenly, everyone becomes a prig. The TLS’s review of Evelyn Waugh’s Put out more ...

Tang and Tone

Stephen Fender: The Federal Writer’s Project’s American epic, 18 March 2004

Portrait of America: A Cultural History of the Federal Writers’ Project 
by Jerrold Hirsch.
North Carolina, 293 pp., £16.50, November 2003, 0 8078 5489 1
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... branch), Conrad Aiken, Saul Bellow and John Cheever, had already begun to make their reputations. Studs Terkel would find his calling when the FWP sent him out onto the streets of Chicago to collect oral history. Most striking was the impetus given to the careers of black authors: Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison were given their ...

The Tarnished Age

Richard Mayne, 3 September 1981

David O. Selznick’s Hollywood 
by Ronald Haver.
Secker, 425 pp., £35, December 1980, 0 436 19128 8
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My Early life 
by Ronald Reagan and Richard Hubler.
Sidgwick, 316 pp., £7.95, April 1981, 0 283 98771 5
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Naming Names 
by Victor Navasky.
Viking, 482 pp., $15.95, October 1980, 0 670 50393 2
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... and the New York Times, and became editor of the Nation in 1978. Kurt Vonnegut, E.L. Doctorow, Studs Terkel and Tom Wicker are among the admirers quoted on the dust-jacket; and, as if that weren’t enough, Navasky himself twinkles out on the back flap in a checked open-neck shirt, a beard, wiry glasses, and an engine-driver’s cap which suggests ...

Somebody Shoot at Me!

Ian Sansom: Woody Guthrie’s Novel, 9 May 2013

House of Earth: A Novel 
by Woody Guthrie.
Fourth Estate, 234 pp., £14.99, February 2013, 978 0 00 750985 0
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... and a radio entertainer – ‘The only thing I’m sure he hadn’t been was a lawyer,’ Studs Terkel wrote – but he was a full-time pain in the arse. He was also, as it turns out, a part-time novelist. The editors of House of Earth, Douglas Brinkley and Johnny Depp (yes, that Johnny Depp), describe the recently rediscovered book as ...

Apartheid’s Apocalypse

R.W. Johnson, 3 July 1986

South Africa without Apartheid 
by Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley.
California, 315 pp., £15.25, July 1986, 0 520 05769 4
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Move your shadow: South Africa Black and White 
by Joseph Lelyveld.
Joseph, 390 pp., £14.95, February 1986, 0 7181 2661 0
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Capitalism and Apartheid: South Africa 1910-1984 
by Merle Lipton.
Gower/Temple Smith, 448 pp., £18.50, September 1985, 0 85117 248 2
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The Militarisation of South African Politics 
by Kenneth Grundy.
Tauris, 133 pp., £14.95, May 1986, 1 85043 019 5
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... of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban – all that most visitors ever see.This is not a Studs Terkel study of South Africa: the characters do not quite talk for themselves. They are the people Lelyveld has chosen to interview and we always get his sensitive, wry, humane asides about them. Since it is these which thread the book together, it is ...


Inigo Thomas: My Father, Hugh Thomas, 15 June 2017

... last minute. Oral biography is more familiar in the US than it is in Britain: George Plimpton and Studs Terkel were two of its best-known exponents. In these books, the life of, say, Truman Capote, is told through the words of those who knew him: the author is editor and orchestrator. Lockhart’s Life of Scott is similar: much of the book is made up of ...
Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull and Sumner Welles 
by Irwin Gellman.
Johns Hopkins, 499 pp., $29.95, April 1995, 0 8018 5083 5
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Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley 
edited by Geoffrey Ward.
Houghton Mifflin, 444 pp., $24.95, April 1995, 0 395 66080 7
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No Ordinary Time. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War Two 
by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Simon and Schuster, 759 pp., £18, June 1995, 0 671 64240 5
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The End of Reform 
by Alan Brinkley.
Knopf, 371 pp., $27.50, March 1995, 0 394 53573 1
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... after the Civil War) to ‘become a basis for a broader programme of social assistance’. Studs Terkel’s ironically titled oral history, The Good War, like William Tuttle’s recent Daddy’s Gone to War, demythologises the home front during World War Two. These studies of ordinary people are less inclined than No Ordinary Time to find ...

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