OpEdNews Op Eds

The Great Louis Terkel. (You know him as Studs.)

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 5 pages)
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It


- Advertisement -

January 30, 2008

 Re:  The Great Louis Terkel.  (You know him as Studs.)  

            I recently read a memoir by Studs Terkel, who is now 94 years old, I believe.  Though I grew up in his city, Chicago, in the 1940s and 1950s, when he already was pretty well known there, I can’t remember having known much about him then.  That is a reflection of the ignorance of a kid, plus the milieu in which I grew up.  But I learned a good deal about him reading his memoir, Touch And Go, and some of what I read was particularly interesting to me.


            One has read upon occasion that there is a Chicago style of writing. It is said to consist of an erudite use of language coupled with street talk or obscenity.  This coupling, minus true erudition, often marks my own speech and writing.  Some relations and friends, who are not used to the Chicago style, do not like it at all.  My response is unprintable (unless you’re from Chicago). 


            Terkel’s memoir is of this genre.  There is high flown language, sophisticated thoughts, and cursewords.  Terkel says of James T. Farrell, author of the Studs Lonigan trilogy, that he “was among the first to have captured the argot of Chicago streets, South Side Irish.  He caught the language, the idiom, that Chicagoesque quality.”  Terkel likewise has captured “that Chicagoesque quality.”


            Some of Terkel’s Chicagoesque is excruciatingly funny.  I actually got tears in my eyes laughing at one episode.  To tell of it, and of how Terkel sets the stage for it, I shall simply quote him, since it is impossible to do justice by mere descriptive paraphrase.  I hope I violate no copyright by quoting two pages worth of Terkel - - all that can happen, really, is that readers of this post are more likely to buy his book.


            Terkel went through a period when he was regularly watched and investigated by the FBI because he was a man of the left, which in those days meant you would be closely watched by Jedgar Hoover’s boys, as a possible dangerous commie.  The Eff Bee Eye would come to Terkel’s house, call him up, and so on.  He sets the stage by describing visits to his house:

- Advertisement -


I myself was hospitable at all times.  I seated them.  I offered them choices of Scotch or bourbon.  I had triple shots in mind.  Invariably, they refused.  Once, I suggested vodka, making it quite clear it was domestic.  I thought I was quite amusing.  At no time did our visitors laugh.  Nor did my wife.  I felt bad.  I did so want to make them feel at home.  I never succeeded.


They had questions in mind.  They frequently consulted small notebooks.  They hardly had the chance to ask any of their questions.  It wasn’t that I was rude.  On the contrary; I simply felt what I had to tell them was far more interesting than what they had to ask me.


I read Thoreau to them; his sermon on John Brown.  Passages out of Walden.  Paine.  I told them these are times that try men’s souls.  And so on.  We hold these truths, I even tried out on them.  Nothing doing.  Their attention wandered.  They were like small restless boys in the classroom, wiggling in their seats.  At times, I showed them where the bathroom was and asked if they wanted any reading matter.  No, they didn’t.  I have done some of my most exploratory reading there, I told them.  No response.


After several such visits, with a notable lack of response on their part, my patience, I must admit, did wear thin.  On one occasion, a visitor took out his notebook and studied it.  Our son, five years old at the time, peered over his shoulder.  The guest abruptly shut the book.  The boy was startled. 


“Why did you do that?”  I asked.


“He was peeking in my book.”


“He’s five years old.”


“This is government information.”


“Is it pornographic?”


“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5


Lawrence R. Velvel is a cofounder and the Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, and is the founder of the American College of History and Legal Studies.

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Preliminary Memorandum of the Justice Robert H. Jackson Conference on Federal Prosecutions of War Criminals

Investing With Bernie Madoff: How It Happened, What Happened, What Might Be Done (Part I)

Irving Picard's Three Percent Commission In The Madoff Case.

Alan Dershowitz on Whether to Prosecute Executive Branch Criminals

Madoff And The Mafia: A Mere Speculation Or Almost A Sure Thing?

It Appears That The Madoff Scam Was Not, Repeat Not, A Ponzi Scheme.


The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
3 people are discussing this page, with 3 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

Thanks so much for this inspiring and thoughtful p... by C.Bid on Wednesday, Jan 30, 2008 at 6:13:59 PM
     Thanx for such an un... by mikel paul on Wednesday, Jan 30, 2008 at 7:51:20 PM
Superb job of describing Studs in his many facets ... by Gregg Gordon on Thursday, Jan 31, 2008 at 6:36:08 AM