CHICAGO by Studs Terkel


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A collage of impressions and historical anecdotes by the author who over the years has become the guru of the Second City. Certain to be popular "in the state of Elanoy," this brief (144 pages) reminiscence may fare less well in the remaining 49. Terkel assumes his readers will be familiar with many of the personalties and events he depicts. And, while it is true that much of the material is well known--the career of Al Capone and the Haymarket Riot, for example--all too often Terkel fails to provide much in the way of background and exposition of his more obscure references. From time to time, colorful details surface which briefly capture the attention but much of the time the material is too specialized and/or minor to hold much interest for the general reader. As he had before (The Good War, Working and Hard Times, among others), Terkel brings his own individual voice to the work. As an "oral historian," it is in recreating his conversations with fellow Chicagoans that he is most appealing. Here he exhibits the breezy vitality that seems characteristic of the Windy City. The re is no denying that Terkel's enthusiasms are wide-ranging. They include everything from inner-city murals to Greek coffeehouses; from Pablo Picasso's controversial sculpture to the Dreamland Ballroom; from blizzards to "no-hitters" at Wrigley Field. For "out-of-towners," however, these glimpses of Chicago life are just not striking enough to rivet the attention. Fifty-five black-and-white photographs "by several generations of the city's most renowned photographers" (not seen) will doubtlessly do much to flesh out this paean to Terkel's hometown. As text, however, Chicago is too obviously aimed at those Second City dwellers who wish to revel in nostalgia and self-congratulation. For others, it is likely to prove frustrating and less than completely satisfying.
Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1986
ISBN: 0517050668
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1986


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