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Studs Terkel's Working: A Graphic Adaptation

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  490 ratings  ·  59 reviews
"Working has been a book, a radio drama, a Broadway musical, and now a gripping graphic novel. I can't speak for Studs, but I suspect he would have been tickled to see it adapted by a former government file clerk and wage slave, who knows all about working." --Roger Ebert In the thirty-five years since Pulitzer Prize-winner Studs Terkel's Working was first published, it ha ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 28th 2009 by The New Press
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Thomas Ray
Jul 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
The comic-book format does nothing to soften the relentless parade of injustice and degradation. Among the few interviewees who don't describe their jobs as soul-destroying are the musicians. And even there, it's mostly playing soulless music for drunks. The bar pianist says, "I consider myself a whisky salesman." The jazz saxophonist tells of years of such work, and of labor-management problems, before he got the chance to be a concert musician in a cooperative band. And of course it took const ...more
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
"The style of life I myself am familiar with is the quotidian. But just because one writes about everyday life doesn't mean it's uninteresting; in fact, I find it's most fascinating... Bravo to Terkel for documentating these fascinating lives."
Harvey Pekar, in the introduction to his graphic adaptation of Studs Terkel's WORKING.

If you're familiar with Terkel's Pulitzer-Prize winning oral history work, you know that this book is adapted from his 1974 work of the same name. Terkel's life work was
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Having never read the Studs Terkel classic and finding myself in the midst of the job searching process, I decided to pick up this graphic novel adaptation. Generally it is really well done, with a variety of artists tackling a selection of stories from the original work. I was amazed at how adeptly people were able to articulate the tasks they carried out on a daily basis, alongside the deeper meditations about work and purpose and value in how we choose (or not) to spend a large portion of our ...more
Joseph Gagnon
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics-i-ve-read
I was in this show back in the day, haha, thus HAD to read this when I spotted it at the library. It brought back some great memories. The comic itself was a fair read. I feel like a LOT of summarizing happened, but it was largely done well. I didn't care for some of the art. It felt kinda thrown together. All minor problems though. Mostly what shone through was Terkel's marvelous work. Well worth the time.
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: work
The accounts of average American work in this illustrated reworking of the original essay collection is pretty incredible. I really liked the variety of artists that contributed. It made each piece stand out well. Each essay was treated with honor and respect and it made me think about the dignity of work.

Reading about coal-mining or maid work isn’t particularly light-hearted and fun. It’s also dated and while toil is generally universally relatable and soul-crushing, some of the references don
Apr 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: chicago
I NEED to read the original.

The style of life I myself am familiar with is the quotidian. -Harvey Pekar

In others, you see a rhythmic smoothing out of the hand down the chair arm, as though to smooth everything out and make it workable; in others, there is a working of the lips or a steady rocking. None of these could be called neurotic gestures, nor are they symptoms of acute fear; they help the constant calculation. -Richard Hoggart

At the public unveiling of a celebrated statue in Chicago, a la
Kristen Mcchesney
Sep 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novel
While this is not a classic young adult book, within the graphic novel genre, this adaption of Studs Terkel's oral history "Working" would be a wonderful classroon resource. I have used a number of Terkel's oral histories in my classroom, in order to illustrate the historical lives of average Americans and as a general primary source. Students relly connect with the stories of peoples lives and it gives them a true persepctive that we all are a part of a larger history. This recent adaptation of ...more
Feb 09, 2011 rated it liked it
"But every once in awhile there's stuff that comes in on you. All of a sudden something falls into place. Suppose you're driving an eight-penny galvanized finishing nail into this siding. Your whole universe is rolled onto the head of that nail. Each lick is sufficient to justify your life. You say, "Okay, I'm not trying to get this nail out of the way so I can get onto something important. There's nothing more important. It's right there." And goes -- pow! It's not getting that nail in that's i ...more
Chris  - Quarter Press Editor
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
I feel bad admitting it, but this is the first I'd heard of Studs Terkel. After having read this, I'm quite curious about his work and journalism. Collecting oral records of everyday life is something I find extremely interesting--and compelling, and I'll definitely be checking out his writing properly.

As for this particular collection / adaptation, some of the portions shine: the artwork is wonderful, the words serving the images and the images serving the words in a perfect balance. However, t
May 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
BRILLIANT. these stories (most of them, anyway) lend themselves perfectly to the graphic novel format. most of these are really well-rendered, moving, smart and enraging (in a good way). this book helped me get over the guilt i feel for not being a 9-to-5 office person (despite the fact that i am currently, miserably, locked into a 9-to-5 job).
Andrew Tibbetts
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted to love this. I thought it was such a great idea when I heard about it. But it didn't work for me. The original oral history by Studs Terkel is great: letting people speak about the real details of their working life. As you read, you imagine the sights, sounds, smells and entire worlds where these monologues sprung from. In this adaption, artists have done the job and now the dialogue and the visuals are sometimes at cross purposes, sometimes redundent. I think it would have worked bet ...more
Laura Missett
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Read for Atomic Books reading club. I am not familiar with the original work, but I liked reading the stories of these individuals and how they interact with the working world and also how that flows into their personal lives. I wanted more of a conclusion I guess or a purpose out of it that wasn't there. Also, for me, the stories were unrelatable because most of the scenarios don't exist today (for better or worse). It might be interesting for someone to do these style interviews with some mode ...more
Andrew Miller
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved the original book, Working, by Studs Terkel. This graphic novel adaptation which includes the work of Harvey Pekar amongst many other artists and storytellers is a fantastic addition. The partnership of this vast collection of personal stories from regular Americans combined with visual context, unearths a layer of emotional and political complexity to the pieces which reading alone may not provide everyone.
As interesting as Terkel's ethnographies are, this graphic adaptation of his book "Working" is quite a bit more accessible in telling the stories of working-class folks from around the United States. The stories are told in artwork of numerous graphic artists, and not all of them serve the stories well, but overall it's a great introduction to Terkel's lifetime of work.
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
A granular view of a day in the life of a plethora of individuals of different backgrounds, professions, ages, genders, races, and economic statuses.
Justin Matulonis
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's incredibly interesting.
Sharon Falduto
A graphic novel of Terkel's work in which folks discuss their jobs, their trials, and the threats each feels from higher ups in management.
Vinayak Joshi
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is not a happy book. But it is educative. Although dated, it illustrates the relentless degradation that is work for most people.
"I think most of us are looking for a calling, not a job. Most of us, like the assembly-line worker, have jobs that are too small for our spirit. Jobs are not big enough for people." (p. xxi, from the original introduction to Studs Terkel's "Working" (1974))

"This book, being about work, is by its very nature, about violence - to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the
From the original introduction to Studs Terkel's Working:

Perhaps it is time the "work ethic" was redefined and its idea reclaimed from the banal men who invoke it. In a world of cybernetics, of an almost runaway technology, things are increasingly making things. It is for our species, it would seem, to go on to other matters. Human matters. Freud put it one way, Ralph Helstein puts it another. He is president emeritus of the United Packinghouse Workers of America. "Learning is work. Caring for c
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wasn't getting around to reading anything by Studs Terkel or Harvey Pekar, so this book was really a 2-for-1 deal. Having read this, I have an appreciation for both men.

Terkel was certainly of an era, and that era was one in which American radicals had faith that unions would improve the fortune of workers. He was also of an era in which the average American didn't have experience promoting herself on social networks or aspiring to a gig on a reality TV show. I would imagine, 40 years later, t
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comix
For some reason, I've avoided reading 'Working' for some time. I think I thought 'man, I'm working all the time, why should I read a boring book about working?' However, I saw that Harvey Pekar had adapted this huge book, and I do live in Chicago, and well, the CPS teacher's strike is scheduled to occur at any day now - I figured Labor Day weekend would be the perfect occasion to give the graphic novel a try.

I cannot speak highly enough of this book. Truly powerful, amazingly inspiring, and extr
Feb 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing

I saw Studs Terkel on the Daily Show a while back and I wanted to pick up some of his books. He's an interviewer, but he interviews everyone to try and capture the essence of the age, moment to moment. This graphic novel was pretty good. Some of the interviews didn't lend themselves to the graphic form, but the entire book was a fascinating slice of 1960s and 1970s everyday life. Terkel focused on occupations and talked to everyone he could. The neat thing was how many of these jobs are gone now
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
great adaption.

In the preface to the graphic novel, Harvey Pekar writes:

I was especially pleased to work on this project because Studs Terkel puts a great deal of emphasis, as I do, in writing about quotidian life. The so-called normal aspect of human existence is underemphasized in every form of literature, yet that is the aspect that most readers are familiar with and can most easily identify with.

The style of life I myself am familiar with is the quotidian.

But just because one writes about ev
This was fun, it was good. I wanted to like it more than I really did. I found myself wanting it to be a little more current - all the text/depictions of workers are from more than 30 years ago. Also, most of the text was more about job satisfaction/philosophy than about the technicalities of working the job, which is personally what I'd be more fascinated by. Definite pro-union slant, which is cool. I do wish there was a touch more editorializing, because there's a definite agenda but you have ...more
Leiah Jansen
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book
I think I heard of this book via Austin Kleon's friday newsletter. I'd never heard of Studs Terkel or read anything of his. I enjoyed this book - I liked the graphic format (although I thought some of the illustrators were far better than others). It was interesting to glimpse all these regular ol' workin' people's perspectives, and to see their pride and humility. My worldview is admittedly narrow when it comes to knowing about people's work and jobs. Growing up, nobody ever really talked about ...more
Oct 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Excerpts from Terkel's classic book, drawn in different styles. I was sorry to see that the two paperboys didn't make the cut. (Maybe they weren't included because there aren't many paperboys around anymore.) The waitress, Delores Dante, is included, and hers is still my favorite interview.

I liked Pekar's introduction, too. He says that writing about everyday life is the sort of writing that everyone can identify with and respond to, but it is the type of writing that gets the least attention an
Oct 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graflit
A graphic rendition of some parts of Studs Terkel's iconic "Working." Pekar edits and adapts many bits with guest artists doing the illustration. Some artists did their own adapting for their illustrations.

Pekar mentions in the forward how he felt that both Terkel and he had an appreciation for what Pekar labels the "quotidian narrative." It is true, people just talking about their work can have an emotional impact, there are beautiful, powerful stories out there in the everyday lives of people.
Jul 01, 2009 rated it liked it
My interest was piqued to hear of a graphic novel adaptation of Studs Terkel's Working, especially one that involved Harvey Pekar. It was worth the investment. I liked that the design styles and lettering varied among subjects, though some were so heavily weighted to text, it seemed to halt the flow. Still, a moderately successful interpretation, and one that may introduce the work to a new audience.
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
I give this 4 stars because I have to. It's difficult and sometimes boring, a slog at times, woefully out of date, dizzying variation from one portrayal to the next, taxing, emotionally draining, depressing.

But, it needed to be done. I think it's an important work and I'm glad it has been given new life. I'm glad Story Corps is out there and hope we never forgo the power of oral histories.
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Harvey Lawrence Pekar was an American underground comic book writer best known for his autobiographical American Splendor series.

In 2003, the series inspired a critically acclaimed film adaptation of the same name.

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