Tonight on HBO - Studs Terkel: Listening to America

Studs Terkel Just got word there’ll be a documentary tribute to Studs Terkel, 1 day before what would have been his 98th birthday. The documentary by Eric Simonson looks at the man behind the oral histories of everyday people.

“What he did for a living is hard to describe to somebody who doesn’t know his work,” says Simonson, who spent numerous hours with his subject at Terkel’s North Side home—a pack rat’s paradise by the lake. ” ‘He’s an oral historian.’ Well, what does that mean? ‘And he’s a radio man.’ Well, so what? What does that mean? It’s really the force of Studs’ personality that makes him who he was, so I was trying to sift through all this footage to find the most quintessential looks at Studs Terkel and who he was and why it is he meant so much to many people.”

Terkel appears in it (his last interview for the film was recorded six months before his death in October, 2008). The Chicago Sun Times calls it “Disappointingly Short”—a mere 40 minutes.

Simonson was affected by the process of interviewing Studs, and

“Before I worked with Studs, I used to engage in conversation without really thinking about it,” he says. “After I worked with Studs, I’m really aware of the value of asking somebody the right questions in order to get them to open up. Or trying to get them to open up without becoming too personal and understanding that, as Studs said, every life has value, every life has a story worth telling.”

Now, if anyone near me with HBO will just TiVo it, then I’ll be able to see it.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 15, 2010 in • InterviewingOral HistoriansOral history in the news
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