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Will the Circle be Unbroken? Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith by Studs Terkel




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America’s oral history has become richer as a result of Studs Terkel’s ten books. Many years ago, I recall becoming mesmerized by the many voices Studs presented in his classic, Working. His style is to present people in their own words, or in an interview format with him. After a dozen or so of Studs’ presentation of individuals, I always feel enriched by the wisdom and behavior of ordinary people. His latest book, Will the Circle Be Unbroken?, approaches the topic of death, something that’s not usually at the top of our “to read” list. By the time I finished the prologue, I was hooked, and savored reading two or three short chapters at a time, so I could reflect on what each person was trying to communicate through Studs.

While most of the chapters are from interviews with people you’ve never heard of, one of my favorite sections came from writer Kurt Vonnegut. Here’s an excerpt from his chapter:

“Instead of a headstone, I’d like to have a bench somewhere with a pretty nice view, where somebody could just sit in the middle of their day. Nobody’s going to be doing that in the middle of a graveyard. I could just give somebody a nice moment in their day. They could park their butt down on a bench and take a deep breath and think about things. If you want to be immortal, have a kid. Go to a sperm bank. That’s another path to immortality: have a kid, hope you’re lucky. Don’t have too many expectations in this world because, at a certain point, you get the immortality, but you don’t necessarily get to write the script of that next person’s life. And that’s that.
One other thing that is interest about the software. We all seem to operate better when we believe in something. If you look at people who have some sort of religious belief, whether its humanistic or some particular lodge hall, people who have some sort of belief live longer – they operate better. Life isn’t just about them. If you want to live longer, believe in something and feel good about it. Today, we live in a time where we have to keep reinventing ourselves, and I’ve reinvented myself. I was in advertising and, at a certain point, they want to see some young goy there. So either you send in a young actor to play you in the meeting or you go find something else to do. Exit laughing.”

There are sixty-two voices presented in this book, each with a message to think about. Read what they have to say, reflect on their stories, and absorb whether their message has something to say to you.

Steve Hopkins, April 10, 2002


ã 2002 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the May 2002 issue of Executive Times


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