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Touch and Go: A Memoir Hardcover – November 30, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. After a lifetime of interviewing others, Terkel finally turns the tape recorder on himself. At least, that's what he would have us think. Terkel's memoir is more a medley of all the extraordinary characters he's encountered through his career, from the adult loners of his youth in Chicago's Wells-Grand Hotel, to New Deal politicians. Terkel details his long journey through law school, the air force, theater, radio, early television, sports commentary, jazz criticism and oral history. Surprisingly, a 12-time author who has built a career on emerging media is a hopeless Luddite. Unskilled with his tape recorder, the bread and butter of an oral historian, Terkel modestly attributes his knack for getting people to open up about their lives to his own ineptitude and slovenliness. This memoir, however, is a fitting portrait of a legendary talent who seeks truth with compassion, intelligence, moxie and panache. Never one to back down from authority, Terkel cracks jokes in law school classrooms and filibusters FBI visits by quoting long passages from Thoreau and Paine. He pogos between decades, reminding the reader that knowing history doesn't mean memorizing chronologies so much as it does attending to the lessons and voices of the past. He laments the national Alzheimer's afflicting this country, and fears the consequences if we don't regain consciousness. Americans might get to know their collective past a lot better if all history lessons were as absorbing and entertaining as this one. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

Although listeners may be initially disappointed to learn that renowned author and oral historian Terkel does not read his memoir, they will be pleasantly surprised with Dietz’s performance. He effortlessly conveys the rise and fall of Terkel’s rhythmic vocal patterns, and his voice, though not nearly as hoarse and throaty as the Pulitzer Prize winner’s, suggests a younger, less-battered vocal apparatus better suited to recount episodes from Terkel’s personal and professional life in his beloved Chicago. Terkel brings bygone eras and more recent times alive, and Dietz steps up to fill the microphone with the 95-year-old legend’s unforgettable recollections. --Whitney Scott --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 269 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The (November 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595580433
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595580436
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,405,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Studs Terkel (1912-2008) was a free spirit, an outspoken populist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a terrible ham, and one of the best-loved characters on the American scene. Born in New York in 1912, he lived in Chicago for over eight decades. His radio show was carried on stations throughout the country.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Imagine yourself sitting on a front porch on a quiet summer evening, listening to a beloved uncle recount stories you've heard half a dozen times before. He rambles from time to time, and the names of the characters sometimes blur, but the tales are rich and populated with colorful characters, conjuring up vivid images of bygone days. That's the feeling one gets encountering Studs Terkel in his delightful collection of reminiscences, TOUCH AND GO.

The son of immigrant parents, Terkel was born in New York City in 1912 ("three weeks after the Titanic blithely sailed into the tip of that iceberg. Make of it what you will."). In 1921, he moved to Chicago, the city with whom his life has been linked so intimately. There, his parents ran a series of rooming houses and small hotels; his mother Annie, the dominant parent, even beat up a pimp on one occasion. Studs spent his free time hanging out among the soapbox orators at Bughouse Square, Chicago's low-rent version of London's Hyde Park. Those familiar with Terkel's streetwise persona may be surprised to learn that he graduated from the elite University of Chicago Law School, although he confesses that a career in the law "just wasn't there for me." Indeed, his fondest recollection of his law school days was the transfer on his trolley ride in an area known as "Bronzeville," where he first encountered the blues, firing a lifelong passion for that music.

Although TOUCH AND GO follows an arguably chronological path, it's the frequent detours that offer the most pleasure.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By FQHBOOKS VINE VOICE on December 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
When I picked up TOUCH AND GO, I wondered how Studs Terkel was going to compress his 95 years into 256 pages. It (sort) of does it by recollecting a time in history--the Depression, for example--and falling in and out of it, or spinning and refracting it, using the kaleidoscope of his life.

History buffs (of which I'm not) will enjoy this book (he includes an extensive index), and so will people who've strong ties or interest in Chicago, and Terkel fans. I'd never read anything of Terkel's before so I was introduced to his:

* Dry sense of humor: "The last time I saw Bernays, he was approaching the century mark. He was frail and hard of hearing, and his memory played hide-and-seek at times, but he still had almost all his marbles."

* Grasp of Chicago vernacular: "Who you? Dis seat's mine. Possession's nine-tent's a da law, ain't it?"

* Descriptive sense: "Lowell Sherman immediately comes to mind. He was among the first. Brilliantined, patent-leather black hair, with a mustache that also appeared patented; evil-eyed; a cad in a class by himself. Lew Cody, a fair-skinned, craven toady up to no good. Their mustaches gave them away. What the scarlet letter was to Hester Prynne, the damnable facial adornment was to them." (He's noticed a lot of mustaches over the years.)

* And most importantly, how Terkel has chosen the people he wants to write about: "When I look for people, I'm not looking only for those who share my views; I'm looking for those who have grown to think a certain way, who have changed their views. A number of conservative people are in my books; not as many as more progressive thinkers, but that's not the point of my books at all. I'm looking for those who can talk about how they see their lives and the world around them.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Dachs on November 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a bit prejudiced, I love Studs--I love listening him on WFMT, and I love reading his books.

He really loves and respects people and they respond to him--he is great listener and storyteller---this book is sort of a conversation with a really interesting guy over a couple of martinis in a noisy bar--

I really liked this book, and if you like Studs, and are interested in people, you will like it too,
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jim Sommers on February 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Studs is a national treasure. That he's a great listener anyone who is familiar with his "Working," "Hard Times," "Race," etc. already knows. His story telling skills haven't diminished a bit as he approaches the century mark. The only thing that I found disappointing was that it ended so soon. I felt like I was paying a visit to a great friend & I had to leave too early. Still, any time spent with Studs is a treat.

His observations, especially in some of the later chapters "And nobody laughed" and "Einstein and the rest of us" remind us that the madness that we're currently experiencing has roots that are both recent and back over half a century. His observations also, to the annoyance of many, refuse to be clouded by the hype from all quarters that we're constantly bombarded with. That Ronald Reagan and his administration's devastating policies still haven't been discovered by the very citizens whose lives have been (adversely) effected the most ("What's the matter with Kansas"), as we currently have presidential candidates falling all over themselves to "out Reagan" each other, don't cease to amaze. The selective amnesia that infests our society doesn't just border on the surreal, but has crossed the line with plenty to spare.

If you frequently find yourself having that uneasy feeling as if you were stuck in a dreamscape conjured up by Salvador Dali during a fit of madness, or perhaps find yourself carrying one of those Bush Countdown Clocks around to remind yourself that maybe there will be a beginning to an end one day, then a strong dose of Studs might offer hope that reality might still exist.
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