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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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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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  • Paperback | 640 pages
  • 137.16 x 208.28 x 45.72mm | 725.74g
  • 28 Feb 1997
  • The New Press
  • New York
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 1565843428
  • 9781565843424
  • 70,886

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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.

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Review text

There is hardly an interviewer, commentator or probing journalist among us who can elicit so much grief and passion, so many forlorn hopes and decayed dreams, so much of the tedium and frustration of daily existence from his subjects as Studs Terkel. Subjects? Hardly. Talking casually, sometimes disjointedly and hesitantly, or unleashing long suppressed feelings in an angry torrent, these are not clinical case studies but complex, fully human people whose humdrum reminiscences of long hours, days and years on the job are almost painfully involving. Even their laughter, abrupt and nervous, will make you wince because in Terkel's words, "This book, being about work is, by it's very nature, about violence - to the spirit as well as to the body." "You're nothing more than a machine. . . . They give better care to that machine than they will to you. They'll have more respect, give more attention to that machine," says the twenty-seven year-old spot welder at Ford. "I'm a mule" says the steelworker. Nor is the sense of waste and futility confined to blue-collar workers. Terkel talks to shipping clerks and sports figures, copy boys, hospital aides, salesmen, press agents, a doorman, a barber, a fireman, a cop, a pharmacist, a piano tuner, a stockbroker, a gravedigger. . . and yes, there is a common chord. Pride, the pride of craftsmanship is harder and harder to sustain; the old work ethic seems to many like a dirty trick. Strikingly, the only people who seem genuinely to exult in their work are those who deal directly and intimately with other people - like the Brooklyn fireman who muses "You see them give mouth-to-mouth when a guy's dying. You can't get around that shit. That's real. To me, that's what I want to be." For the rest, Terkel finds "the desperation is unquiet" and here, at least, it's eloquent. (Kirkus Reviews)

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