Saturday, November 01, 2008

Studs Terkel's Last Interview

Mother Jones has it. Here are two excerpts:
Q: You still type out your interviews on your old Remington. Have you been on the Internet yet?

A: They had me on it at the American Booksellers Association convention. I didn't know what they were talking about. The trouble with me and the Internet is that it's about facts and figures and information. But without the flesh and blood and the breathing that goes on, who am I talking to? What do they look like? Is it a multitude? Are there 25 people there? Who is that scraggly kid? The old woman there with a cane? That part--the human touch, that's what's missing.

This is one of the aspects of Coming of Age, one of the complaints that many of these older people have. Technology--some of my heroes and heroines let me know--makes them a little unhappy because something personal is missing.

Q: And yet, in a sense, your books and interviews were a precursor to the Internet, providing generally unfiltered information and ideas to and from ordinary people.

A: If we're to have a future in the 21st century, we'll want to be able to say, "Now what was the 20th century like in the United States of America, the most powerful of all countries of that century? What was it like to be an ordinary person?"

* * *

Q: Have you ever cut something out of an interview to save someone from being embarrassed?

A: Oh, yeah. No interview, no book is worth the hurt to a person that is irreparable. I'm a strong believer in protecting the privacy of a person. For one thing, I don't want gossip or stuff of that sort. What is it that is said by that person that is a revelation to those reading it? What is the commonality? Of course, that person says, that's me!

Q: Through the years, has there been one issue in this country that seems most neglected or ignored?

A: The big one is the gap between the haves and the have-nots--always. You see, the basic issues--we're always up on these issues of abortion and all the others, that are important of course--but the key issue is jobs. You can't get away from it: jobs. Having a buck or two in your pocket and feeling like somebody.

A guy I interviewed for Hard Times says, "What do I remember about the Great Depression? That I was hungry, that's all." Elemental things.

This came up recently when I was asked: "Will shame do it?" Meaning: Will welfare people be shamed into getting respectable work? And I said that shame plays the biggest role there is: The biggest shame is that there is so much abundance around but that so many have so little and so few have so much. That's the shame.

Read the entire interview here.

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