“Who built Thebes of the seven gates?” wrote German poet Bertolt Brecht. “In the books you will find the names of kings. Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?” Working, in its preface, accepts Brecht’s challenge to tell the story of the ordinary folk who make history yet seldom feature in its pages. Through interviews, America’s laborers, cops, hookers, CEOs, truckers, barmen, stockbrokers, gravediggers and dozens of others tell their own story of how America works — literally. Terkel used the same people-centered technique to produce magisterial chronicles of the Depression, World War II, Americans’ grappling with faith, life and death. But Working was his breakthrough masterpiece — a book that finds the poetry in the prosaic lives of millions.
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