Books by Calvin Trillin

NO FAIR! NO FAIR! by Calvin Trillin
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 27, 2016

"More of the same—but a nice more. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)"
The Thurber Prize winner's first collection of poetry for children has a familiar feel, except for that blue hyena. Read full book review >
JACKSON, 1964 by Calvin Trillin
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: June 28, 2016

"Haunting pieces that show how our window on the past is often a mirror."
A veteran reporter collects some significant pieces about race that originally appeared in the New Yorker, his publishing home since 1963. Read full book review >
DOGFIGHT by Calvin Trillin
NON-FICTION
Released: Nov. 20, 2012

"An easy, breezy, pocket-sized slice of political humor."
Longtime New Yorker staff writer Trillin (Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff, 2011) puts his patented poetic spin on the 2012 presidential election. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Sept. 13, 2011

"More support, if any were needed, that Trillin is a leading humorist, even if some dust clings to a few of the essays and poems."
Some of the best pieces of the esteemed humorist's long career. Read full book review >
TRILLIN ON TEXAS by Calvin Trillin
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: March 1, 2011

"Whatever the subject—whether 'high' or 'low'—Trillin writes exquisitely."
A collection of 18 essays, observations, pronouncements and musings on life and folks in Texas. Read full book review >
ABOUT ALICE by Calvin Trillin
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 2, 2007

"A small book that betokens a deep, undimmed affection. "
The New Yorker staff writer, with a substantial library of antic texts to his credit (Tepper Isn't Going Out, 2002, etc.), writes an affecting eulogy to his late wife. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: May 13, 2003

"Fighting for human rights, writing the perfect poem, discovering cures for mortal diseases: these are endeavors Trillin would consider deserving of our admiration, thank you. And you can add to that 'the ability to read the wall signs in Chinese restaurants.'"
The chowhound pursues soul-stirring, pulse-elevating food from one eatery to another, over many a mile. Read full book review >
TEPPER ISN’T GOING OUT by Calvin Trillin
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 15, 2002

"Sweetly silly and very wise. This is what we want to put back in place when the city pulls out of the nightmare."
A fond fable from what one hopes is not a vanished New York. Read full book review >
FAMILY MAN by Calvin Trillin
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: June 1, 1998

Trillin (Messages from My Father, 1996; Too Soon to Tell, 1995; etc.), ace reporter and effortless humorist that he is, turns to a decidedly domestic theme, uxorious and lovingly parental, in the latest of his score of entertaining texts. As it must to all funny men and women, family life becomes the subject of his easy jocularity. Trillin, of course, has written and talked about level-headed wife Alice and their girls many times. Drawing on prior wisdom, he does some light deconstruction of his previous remarks. The usual humorous suspects (pets, schooling, spousal differences, and diapers) are covered nicely with the author's accustomed aplomb. Advances in baby technology (like Snuglis) are reviewed. Family holiday traditions (like scary Halloween outfits) are recounted. Trillin continues his heroic campaign to replace turkey on the national Thanksgiving menu with spaghetti carbonara. He is a confessed master of Chinese take-out cuisine. There are two Nova Scotias in his world: the smoked- salmon sort and the island, where the Trillins spend their summers. At heart just a lad from Kansas City, he thrives in New York, where, he thinks, about 10 percent of the people walking around Greenwich Village would be stopped by the police if they were in most American cities, and another 10 or 15 percent would at least be interviewed by the local TV news. The two most evident enthusiasms, though, of this Homo domesticus are his daughters, who, happily, share the attributes of every father's girl: They are the brightest, most comely and clever of creatures. As to what may count in rearing children, "your children are either the center of your life or they're not, and the rest is commentary." The commentary is all nimble and easygoing, almost coasting for a clever wordsmith. Though not equal to his finest reportage, Trillin qua Cosby, Bombeck, or Dr. Spock is as good as any in the field. He lives up to the book's title. Read full book review >
MESSAGES FROM MY FATHER by Calvin Trillin
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: June 1, 1996

The renowned humorist fashions an affectionate portrait of his father that muses on the elliptical methods by which men raise sons and by which sons strive to please fathers. Trillin likens his father's ``messages''—indirect signals combining expectation, assumption, and wish—to a secret code. Their meanings were ambiguous to young Calvin. No fan of heart-to- hearts, Abe Trillin's most direct advice was the low-key dictum ``You might as well be a mensch.'' By turns a grocer, restaurateur, hotelkeeper, and real estate developer, Abe was indeed a mensch—a person who always does the right thing—and it's clear his messages and example transmitted a powerful moral code his son still follows. Legendarily stubborn, thrifty, and opinionated, the Russian immigrant earned a reputation for taciturnity but also possessed American optimism and a comic sense that mixed Yiddish humor with a midwesterner's self-deprecating ingenuousness. He was a man of many theories: on butchers, gin strategy, and women's dental fitness (good teeth are the key to a happy marriage), and a connoisseur of curses. Calvin's well-documented love of doggerel finds an antecedent in the verses Abe penned for the menu of his Kansas City restaurant: ``Don't sigh/eat pie.'' The writer obviously relishes Abe as card and character, but it's an amusement tempered by sobering loss at Abe's death, and by a sense of awe (heightened by his own experience with parenthood) that his father managed to pass on as much as he did. Of Abe's typically oblique support of writing as a possible vocation, Trillin wryly muses: ``Would that be how you'd steer your son toward journalism—slip the word to him casually when he's three years old and then make sure he knows how to type?'' With characteristic grace and good humor, Trillin crafts a charming, heartfelt memorial to his father that is also a loving demonstration of how deeply he took his father's advice to heart. (Author tour) Read full book review >
TOO SOON TO TELL by Calvin Trillin
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: June 1, 1995

The prolific New Yorker journalist and gourmand collects the best from the last four years of his syndicated column—a healthy dose of common sense and amiable cynicism. A Kansas City native, Trillin (Deadline Poet, 1994, etc.) smartly balances midwestern aw-shucks shtick with his cracker- barrel wise-guy persona. After warning readers not to take him too seriously, Trillin saves his harshest words for overpaid CEOs, real estate sharks, Eurotrash, the book publishing biz, the NRA, and Ronald Reagan, whose memoirs mark a triumph of history as spin control. A congenial curmudgeon, Trillin enjoys being too old to appreciate aspects of youth culture. His loyalty to the defunct minor league team from his hometown (the Kansas City Blues) is just one of his quirky pleasures, along with ``Gunga Din'' and imitating a dog's bark. Trillin delights in America at its wackiest, from the tic-tac-toe-playing chicken in NYC's Chinatown to medieval jousting restaurants in central Florida. He's always good for lots of domestic laughs as well, especially the mixed joys of living in a female-dominated household presided over by the ever-sensible Alice. He even has a soft spot for hapless George Bush, a man out of step with the times. No slouch when it comes to the failures of Bill Clinton, Trillin continues to be ``blindsided by the truth'' (i.e., reality is stranger than invention). In a crunch, the peripatetic columnist relies on weird news items from around the world, such as China's claim to have invented golf, or the story of a young man in Thailand who refused to leave his room for 22 years because his parents wouldn't buy him a motorcycle. Like any journalist worth his salt, Trillin thrills to the vagaries of language itself, especially slang and euphemism. The perfect antidote to the smirky, mean-spirited humor so popular these days. (author tour) Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: April 1, 1994

The good, gray Trillin hangs up his prose pistols and rides forth as Poet in his seventeenth book, here collecting three years of comic political verse for The Nation. Best known for his Americana and true-crime stories in The New Yorker, for his fabulous food reportage from Kansas City, Louisiana, and elsewhere, and for Remembering Denny, his 1993 bestseller about a friend who committed suicide, Trillin may be a national treasure for his journalism as well as for his two witty one-man shows, which prompted Mel Gussow to dub him ``the Buster Keaton of performance humorists.'' Must doggerel be crude, unpolished, a dog's verse? Though the opening pages of his yappings leave something to be desired, his skills increase with use, although Trillin's funniest moment isn't poetry; it's his complaint about losing Alexander Haig as a fit object of ridoggericule as he watches Haig, like Shane on his white horse, ride out of town, leaving behind little Brandon de Trillin shouting, ``Haig! Haig! Please don't go, Haig! We need you, Haig! Come back, Haig!'' Trillin's father, a Kansas City restaurateur, devised rhymes for his menus (``Let's go, warden, I'm ready to fry/My last request was Mrs. Trillin's pie''), lending young Trillin a rhymer's background. Aside from a bouquet of general doggerel (``New movies, which are mostly dumb, are in the summer/Even dumber''), his subjects, not always treated fairly, he admits, include George Bush, the Reagans, Ross Perot, Mrs. Thatcher, Gorbachev, Clarence Thomas, Clark Clifford, Arafat, Clinton, Gore, Kuwait, and Saddam (``This guy who often said he'd smash us flat in one battle/Turned out to be what Texans call all hat and no cattle''). Let's call it fiddle faddle/between wisdom and a baby's rattle. Read full book review >
REMEMBERING DENNY by Calvin Trillin
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: April 1, 1993

In a memoir on an uncharacteristically somber subject, Trillin (American Stories, 1991, etc.) traces the life of his college friend Roger ``Denny'' Hansen: Phi Beta Kappa, Rhodes Scholar, possessor of charm and good looks to spare—and, at age 55, a suicide victim. Denny had seemed such a golden boy that he was photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt for a Life feature on his 1957 graduation from Yale, and his classmates joked about serving in his cabinet when he became President. But life didn't work out that way. Drained of his confidence at Oxford, unable to enter the Foreign Service as he had desired, Denny (now known as ``Roger'' to new acquaintances) fell into a succession of jobs as an itinerant foreign-policy specialist before becoming a professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins's School of Advanced International Studies. In his last years, old friends were puzzled by his broken dinner engagements and unreturned phone calls; new associates found him an unsmiling, moralistic nag who never quite fit in. Why did Denny finally kill himself? Because of unbearable back pain (as implied by a suicide note), a dead-end academic specialty, lack of family or loved ones, long-repressed homosexuality—or, as one friend noted, simply because he was ``depressed all of his life''? After searching for the point of no return in his old friend's life, Trillin wisely settles for no easy conclusions (``Roger would have said that you didn't know him at all,'' one lover of Denny's remarks—with which Trillin ruefully agrees). What makes this gloomy post-mortem bearable and even fascinating is a smattering of Trillin's one- liners, as well as shrewd observations on sexual orientation, changes in universities' demographics, and American attitudes toward success. Perhaps more appropriate as one of Trillin's shorter New Yorker pieces—but, still, a fine meditation on one life's aborted promise, the crippling burden of anticipated success, and the mysteries of the human heart. Read full book review >
AMERICAN STORIES by Calvin Trillin
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Oct. 1, 1991

With this collection of ``American Chronicles'' from the pages of The New Yorker, Trillin (Enough's Enough, 1990, etc.), known for his sly drollery, displays his talents as a reporter, probing the wild heart of the nation in a dozen full-length pieces. If Truman Capote invented the nonfiction novel, as he claimed, and Norman Mailer devised variations on it, Trillin has perfected the nonfiction short story; moreover, his craftsmanship can contend with that of either Capote or Mailer at their best. With scant pyrotechnics but with lucid, organized prose, Trillin describes what happens when a Scout leader in Oregon is afflicted with homosexual pedophilia or a scratch farmer in Horse Cave, Kentucky, is persuaded that pot would be a good cash crop. He presents a Jekyll-and-Hyde movie reviewer in Texas and a sordid little murder case in Emporia, Kansas. There's manslaughter on the Virginia farm of a member of the patrician Saltonstall family, and the nasty activities of the Posse Comitatus in the fields of the American heartland. And though the author's land sometimes seems drenched in blood feuds, violence, and a surfeit of litigation, usually of the criminal sort, Trillin also offers an easygoing profile of ``Fats'' Goldberg, for whom he acts as a happy Boswell, and the story, gracefully moving, of an American's death in a distant land. Trillin's eye is sharp, of course. The list of ingredients in Ben and Jerry's ice cream, he tells us, ``was done in the sort of hand printing often used on menus that list a variety of herbal teas.'' He has an alert reporter's ear, too. One Kentuckian, in the words of the local sheriff, ``could come in here and sit down and talk you out of your shoes.'' Since life, as Trillin tells us, ``goes on with or without a reporter present,'' he thoughtfully provides a brief postscript to each tale to bring us up to date. Engrossing true stories, filled with liars, lawsuits, and laughs. Mind your shoes. Read full book review >
ENOUGH'S ENOUGH by Calvin Trillin
Released: Nov. 7, 1990

Trillin's fourth syndicated-column collection (With All Disrespect, 1985, etc.)—a flurry of good-natured swipes at an array of foibles that have irked him during the past three years. Trillin's targets range from fruitcake (". . .nobody in the history of the United States has ever bought a fruitcake for himself") to George Bush ("Some rich Eastern preppies with sailboats are fated to walk through life as if encased in a sort of tweedy cocoon. Bush is one of those"); from Michael Milken (". . .the Gambino crime family takes in an estimated $500 million a year. That's $50 million less than Milken") to smart cameras ("When I pushed the button, it advanced itself to the next picture with a contented buzzing sound like a horsefly that has just had a bite of something good"); and so on. The commentary is charming, pointed, and even wise, and to wrap it up Trillin offers an afterword about his fan-mail—which, he says, deals primarily with "the fruitcake question." Another endearingly curmudgeonly collection. Read full book review >