This blog, as explained in our About, takes its name from Studs Terkel’s Division Street: America.
“Division Street is both an homage to the Studs Terkel book about the divisions in American politics as well as a metaphoric nod to the real street in Chicago that stretches from the infamous Rush Street entertainment district through the gentrifying arts district of Wicker Park and largely Hispanic and African American neighborhoods on the West Side to the suburbs. In this way, Division Street encapsulates the dynamism and divisions of the city, and we hope this blog does that too.”
I have occasionally posted “Division Dispatches” here that illustrate the divisions and dynamisms of the real Division Street as a way to hopefully illuminate the nation’s Division Street, as envisioned by Studs.
And it is to Division Street: America that I turn first in a brief round-up of Studs encomiums from the weekend.
“On undertaking this assignment, I immediately called Dr. Philip Hauser, former chairman of the University of Chicago’s Sociology Department, one of the country’s best informed demographers,” Studs wrote – in 1967 – in the book’s Prefatory Notes. “Is there a street in Chicago today where all manner of ethnic, racial, and income groups live? His reply – though a blow – was not unexpected. There is none. As late as twenty-five years ago, Halsted Street may have encompassed all these peoples. There is a quarter-mile radius on the Near North Side of the city that might fit these specifications; upper-middle-income high-rise complexes have sprung up with startling suddenness in the rooming-house heartland. They are adjacent to one another, at this moment. Still the area I was seeking was a matter of conjecture, even here. The nomadic, transient nature of contemporary life has made diffusion the order – or disorder – of the city. The bulldozer and the wrecking ball have played their roles.”
“Although detractors derided him as a sentimentalist populist whose views were simplistic and occasionally maudlin, Mr. Terkel was widely credited with transforming oral history into a popular literary form,” the New York Times wrote in its obituary. “Division Street consisted of transcripts of 70 conversations Mr. Terkel had with people of every sort in and around Chicago. Peter Lyon, reviewing it in The New York Times Book Review, said it was ‘a modern morality play, a drama with as many conflicts as life itself’.”