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Special Feature: the Worst Illustration of Studs Terkel

I was trying to create an image for my piece on the Terkel, a unit of self-worth.

What follows is the worst illustration of Studs Terkel, possibly in history, definitely in oral history. I tried to do it last night, for my piece on the Terkel, staying up late, and failed as totally as the United States system of health care (sorry, bad metaphor, but I can't think of anything that has failed worse. Except the prison system and foreign policy. And this paragraph, from a literary point of view? [And then I would have had to write ...'failed as totally as this paragraph, from a literary point of view', which is too Hofstadterian for my tastes.]).

Here it is...
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The worst rendering of Studs Terkel in history.

“What is that?”

“I don't know. But there's one thing I'm sure of, which is that it's not Studs Terkel.”

“Is that a mouth?”

“I don't know.”

“You don't think it's supposed to be Studs Terkel, do you?”

“Not really, no.”

“God help whoever thought that was a good idea.”

“I don't know.”

“You're nicely-proportioned.”

“Thanks to the gym.”

“I feel that you could fulfill my reproductive potential.”

“I like your muzzle. Will you defend me savagely from competing mates when I am musking?”

“Promise me a litter of 4 pups or more every year.”

“I promise. Promise me eggs, stolen from the nests of hens.”

“I promise, hopping up and down, shifting from paw to paw.”

“I raise my rump.”

“I gnash my teeth in anticipation.”

— Scene cut from “Two Fissiped Lovers of the Mustelid Family” by Amlin Pater.

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I like to dip in and out of books, let them merge together, a great racing flow of language that permeates my life.

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A mess of wires and light. Cars in the carport. A rooftop in upstate New York, a party. Someone lying with her neck hanging out over the edge of the bed and her jaw stretched out. The Hudson by a fire of sunset. A tattoo parlor in the East Village. It's too cold for a walk but he's gone on one, past the planetarium. He looks for comforts and grief together, blended like the birthday marble cake (50 years! For her mother.). But that's a receipt for a catastrophe. All that love to start, then the exit sign starts blinking. At least that's as far as he's gotten it. If I ever find only the comforts, watch out; it's like dinner all day. Selling some parts short, selling other parts too hard. I might have been getting it all wrong.

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His manners were less pure, but his character was equally amiable with that of his father. Twenty-two acknowledged concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes, attested the variety of his inclinations, and from the productions which he left behind him, it appears that the former as well as the latter were designed for use rather than ostentation. (By each of his concubines, the younger Gordian left three or four children; his literary productions were by no means contemptible.) — Gibbon


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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