People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do

Studs Terkel

Introduced by Scott Simon

The fascinating working lives of ordinary people are revealed in Studs Terkel’s masterful chronicle of American life, published as an illustrated edition for the first time by Folio.

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Ward Quaal’s working day starts at 4.30 a.m. long before his driver arrives to take him to his Broadcasting Corporation office; Bud Freeman wakes up around midday and plays jazz for a living; Eric Hoellen supplements his janitor’s duties with undercover work for the FBI. We hear from miners, stockbrokers, waitresses, gravediggers and piano tuners alike in this famous collection of conversations that is honest, funny and endearing, sometimes outrageous and simply extraordinary. Newly presented in a square format, this arresting collector’s edition is lavishly illustrated and includes a fascinating introduction by one of America’s finest broadcasters, Scott Simon.

‘People can’t understand that there are artists in the world as well as drones’

  1. Bud Freeman, Jazz musician

Production Details

Bound in cloth printed and spot-varnished with a design by Jamie Keenan

Set in Garamond with Benguiat as display

744 pages

Double-sided frontispiece plus 38 pages of colour plates and 9 integrated greyscale part-titles

Plain slipcase

9¼˝ x 8¼˝ 

The man who got ‘America talking’

First published in 1972, Working has never lost its status as a classic of social history – not only as a document of a nation during a time of upheaval, but as a triumph of the interviewer’s craft. A Pulitzer Prize-winning radio and television broadcaster, Studs Terkel brings together conversations with more than 100 Americans about their working lives – but the author’s voice is almost entirely absent. The interviewees are granted the space to speak candidly, and at length, about their work and its significance. Few segments of society are unrepresented.

‘You have the air all day and it’s just beautiful. The smell of grass when it’s cut, it’s just fantastic. Winter goes so fast sometimes you just don’t feel it’

  1. Elmer Ruiz, gravedigger

Among the interviewees is Eric Hoellen, a Chicago janitor with a sideline in snooping for the FBI, and the unimprovably named Hots Michaels, who plays piano in a downtown hotel lounge (‘I consider myself a whiskey salesman. The amount of money spent in this bar pays me’). Elsewhere, some of the most compelling stories emerge from the most mundane jobs. There is garbage man Roy Schmidt – who, at 58, is conscious that the physical labour is getting ever more difficult – and grocery-store checker Babe Secoli, whose 30 years at the cash register have delivered a sixth sense for picking out shoplifters. And then there is the miner-turned-dentist Stephen Bartlett, who wants patients to appreciate his work: ‘I don’t think a patient knows whether you’re a good dentist or a bad one. They know one of two things: he didn’t hurt and I like him, or he’s a son of a bitch.’

‘Some men work eight hours a day. There are mothers that work eleven, twelve hours a day … This is an all-round job, day and night’

  1. Jesusita Novarro, mother

A remarkable new edition of a classic text

Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Scott Simon is a household name, having worked with the NPR (National Public Radio) network in America for over 30 years. In his vivid pen portrait, Simon, who knew Terkel for many years, writes about the author’s famous eccentricities and his life as a great Chicago legend; his introduction greatly enriches the reading experience of the transcripts. 

He’d take a stack of his mail and retire to a stall in the loo to read aloud, between flushes, phrases he found praiseworthy or outrageous

This first-ever illustrated edition of Working includes 40 colour photographs from the Documerica project of 1972–7, stored in the US National Archives. These glimpses of 1970s Americana are presented alongside a binding design by celebrated cover artist Jamie Keenan showing a rarely seen image of Terkel interviewing in Chicago and a striking photographic collage.

About Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel (1912–2008) was a radio-talk-show host, raconteur, genius interviewer and oral historian. He was a master chronicler of American life in the 20th century through his radio programme, The Studs Terkel Show, and through his many books, including Division Street: America (1967), Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970), Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About It (1972), The Good War: An Oral History of World War Two (1984), for which he won a Pulitzer Prize, Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession (1992), Coming of Age: Growing Up in the Twentieth Century (1995), and Touch and Go: A Memoir (2007). His searching interviews with ordinary Americans helped transform oral history into a popular literary form. Syndicated from Chicago — the city Terkel became permanently associated with and where he had made his home — his radio show ran for 45 years, from 1952 to 1997. He interviewed both unknown and famous people, including figures as diverse as Louis Armstrong, Simone de Beauvoir, Arthur Miller, J. K. Galbraith, Bob Dylan, Dorothy Parker, Marlon Brando, Martin Luther King and Oliver Sacks. Terkel was a member of the American 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 Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

About Scott Simon

Scott Simon is one of America’s most admired writers and broadcasters. He has reported from around the world and is currently the host of the weekly show on NPR, Weekend Edition Saturday. He is also a Special Contributor to CBS Sunday Morning. He has won every major award in broadcasting, including the Peabody, the Emmy, the Columbia-DuPont Award, the Sidney Hillman Award, the Studs Terkel Award and the Order of Lincoln of the State of Illinois. Simon is also the author of eight books, including Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan (2000) and the novels Pretty Birds (2005) and Windy City (2008). Simon is a native of Chicago. He met Studs Terkel when he was a child, and began his national broadcast career working out of the WFMT studios, where Terkel was legend-in-residence.


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