Studs Terkel turns 95, worries U.S. is losing its memory

Historians in the News

CHICAGO -- American original Studs Terkel, the author and oral historian who for decades gave a voice to working men and women, turned 95 on Wednesday. But don't worry about his memory. He's sharp as a tack.

In fact, he's the one doing the worrying -- about what he describes as the memory loss of a country he suggests may be more interested in the transgressions of celebrities than more substantive affairs such as the politics of the Bush administration, which he characterizes as a"burlesque show."...

Terkel, a legendary Chicagoan, won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1984 book, The Good War, an oral history of World War II.

"We can't make any choices unless we connect the past with the present," he said.

"The thing that horrifies me is the forgetfulness," Terkel said in the famous gravelly voice that charmed generations of radio audiences beginning in the 1950s when he first introduced his interview format on Chicago station WFMT.

"Gore Vidal uses the phrase, the United States of amnesia. Well, I say United States of the big A -- Alzheimer's," he said."Because what happened yesterday is forgotten today."

His new book, The Studs Terkel Reader, My American Century [560 pp; New Press, $16.95], has been timed for release on Terkel's birthday.

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