Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do

Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do


By (author) Studs Terkel

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  • Publisher: The New Press
  • Format: Paperback | 640 pages
  • Dimensions: 137mm x 208mm x 46mm | 726g
  • Publication date: 28 February 1997
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 1565843428
  • ISBN 13: 9781565843424
  • Edition: New edition
  • Edition statement: New edition
  • Sales rank: 68,461

Product description

Perhaps Studs Terkel's best-known book, "Working" is a compelling, fascinating look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews conducted with everyone from gravediggers to studio heads, this book provides a timeless snapshot of people's feelings about their working lives, as well as a relevant and lasting look at how work fits into American life.

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Author information

Studs Terkel (1912-2008) was an award-winning author and radio broadcaster. He is the author of "Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession"; "Division Street: America," "Coming of Age: Growing Up in the Twentieth Century"; "Talking to Myself: A Memoir of My Times"; ""The Good War" An Oral History of World War II"; "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do"; "The Studs Terkel Reader: My American Century"; "American Dreams: Lost and Found"; "The Studs Terkel Interviews: Film and Theater"; "Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression"; "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith"; "Giants of Jazz"; "Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Troubled Times"; "And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey"; "Touch and Go: A Memoir"; "P.S.: Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening"; and "Studs Terkel's Chicago," all published by The New Press. He was a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters and a recipient of a Presidential National Humanities Medal, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a George Polk Career Award, and the National Book Critics Circle 2003 Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

Editorial reviews

Studs Terkel is one of the under-rated heroes of American literature: his books are unlike those of any other writer, with the exception of the British Tony Parker. His approach is to take a topic so big that it resists easy interpretation, such as work, race, the American dream, or coming of age, and then to spend months or years interviewing hundreds of subjects to glean their thoughts and feelings about it. His work is distinguished from that of more conventional historians and sociologists because he allows his interviewees to speak for themselves, prefacing their words with a short description, and editing them for sense and narrative; what emerges are short passages in which people sum up everything about themselves and the topic under discussion with power and passion. The best pieces read like dramatic monologues by a latter-day Robert Browning, working in prose and having done the research of Henry Mayhew. This is not to say that Terkel himself is without polemic or purpose: thus, Working's Introduction claims that the book, 'being about work, is, by its very nature, about violence - to the spirit as well as to the body.' Certainly, the drudgery and soullessness which this implies are at times evident in the workers' descriptions of their lots. Phrases about robots, beasts of toil, and boredom appear across the class and income divides, from farmers to models and bankers. However, as individuals, and as such they emerge, Terkel's interviewees deny this bleak outlook: a Copy Boy tells him, 'I want to be a frontiersman of the spirit - where work is not a drag', questioning the ethic of work like the spirited hippy radical he is but in a way which would be both alien and comprehensible to the Fireman with whom Terkel's book concludes. 'I worked in a bank,' he declares. 'You know, it's just paper. It's not real. Nine to five and it's shit. You're looking at numbers. But I can look back and say, "I helped put out a fire. I helped save somebody." It shows I did something on this earth.' Books about work are rare and readable ones are rarer still: Terkel's achievement in producing this book is to have made a momentous, underwritten subject, as epic and fascinating as it should be. Most of us have to work, after all. (Kirkus UK)