Tuesday, November 04, 2008

"A shmuck with a tape recorder"

I'm not into the hagiography of Studs Terkel "the Bard of the Popular Front" and nor is Ron Radosh. Adeptly and without reservation, Radosh blows the bloom off the red rose, opting to speak truth of the dead. That said there's something to be said to Terkel's method of opening up the American narrative to other story-tellers: the people on the ground. But let's question Terkel's ends not means.

It's worth noting that even Terkel was a useful idiot as Radosh reminds us by way of A.M Rosenthal.
No wonder that the late A.M. Rosenthal, then executive editor of the Times and later a columnist for the paper (when it was still striving to have somewhat of an ecumenical approach and was not exclusively a left-wing opinion sheet) read Berman’s review and, perhaps a bit harshly and in an over the top comment, promptly called Terkel “a shmuck with a tape recorder.” A man like Rosenthal, committed to the paper as he was, knew from personal experience and his years covering Communist Poland the reality of the nightmare underlying the Communist dream, and hence had little sympathy for the kind of narrative Studs Terkel was laying out.

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