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Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin
Cover of Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin
Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin
Forty Years of Funny Stuff
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For at least forty years, Calvin Trillin has committed blatant acts of funniness all over the place—in The New Yorker, in one-man off-Broadway shows, in his “deadline poetry” for The Nation, in comic novels like Tepper Isn’t Going Out, in books chronicling his adventures as a happy eater, and in the column USA Today called “simply the funniest regular column in journalism.”
Now Trillin selects the best of his funny stuff and organizes it into topics like high finance (“My long-term investment strategy has been criticized as being entirely too dependent on Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes”) and the literary life (“The average shelf life of a book is somewhere between milk and yogurt.”)
In Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin, the author deals with such subjects as the horrors of witnessing a voodoo economics ceremony and the mystery of how his mother managed for thirty years to feed her family nothing but leftovers (“We have a team of anthropologists in there now looking for the original meal”) and the true story behind the Shoe Bomber: “The one terrorist in England with a sense of humor, a man known as Khalid the Droll, had said to the cell, ‘I bet I can get them all to take off their shoes in airports.’ ” He remembers Sarah Palin with a poem called “On a Clear Day, I See Vladivostok” and John Edwards with one called “Yes, I Know He’s a Mill Worker’s Son, but There’s Hollywood in That Hair.”
In this, the definitive collection of his humor, Calvin Trillin is prescient, insightful, and invariably hilarious.
For at least forty years, Calvin Trillin has committed blatant acts of funniness all over the place—in The New Yorker, in one-man off-Broadway shows, in his “deadline poetry” for The Nation, in comic novels like Tepper Isn’t Going Out, in books chronicling his adventures as a happy eater, and in the column USA Today called “simply the funniest regular column in journalism.”
Now Trillin selects the best of his funny stuff and organizes it into topics like high finance (“My long-term investment strategy has been criticized as being entirely too dependent on Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes”) and the literary life (“The average shelf life of a book is somewhere between milk and yogurt.”)
In Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin, the author deals with such subjects as the horrors of witnessing a voodoo economics ceremony and the mystery of how his mother managed for thirty years to feed her family nothing but leftovers (“We have a team of anthropologists in there now looking for the original meal”) and the true story behind the Shoe Bomber: “The one terrorist in England with a sense of humor, a man known as Khalid the Droll, had said to the cell, ‘I bet I can get them all to take off their shoes in airports.’ ” He remembers Sarah Palin with a poem called “On a Clear Day, I See Vladivostok” and John Edwards with one called “Yes, I Know He’s a Mill Worker’s Son, but There’s Hollywood in That Hair.”
In this, the definitive collection of his humor, Calvin Trillin is prescient, insightful, and invariably hilarious.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    BIOGRAPHICALLY SPEAKINGa

    "I've found that a lot of people say they're from Kansas City when they aren't. Just for the prestige."

    Chubby

    It's common these days for memoirs of childhood to concentrate on some dark secret within the author's ostensibly happy family. It's not just common; it's pretty much mandatory. Memoir in America is an atrocity arms race. A memoir that reveals incest is trumped by one that reveals bestiality, and that, in turn, is driven from the bestseller list by one that reveals incestuous bestiality.

    When I went into the memoir game, I knew I was working at a horrific disadvantage: As much as I would hate this getting around in literary circles in New York, the fact is that I had a happy childhood. At times, I've imagined how embarrassing this background would be if I found myself discussing childhoods with other memoirists late at night at some memoirist hangout.

    After talking about their own upbringings for a while-the glue- sniffing and sporadically violent grandmother, for instance, or the family tapeworm-they look toward me. Their looks are not totally respectful. They are aware that I've admitted in print that I never heard my parents raise their voices to each other. They have reason to suspect, from bits of information I've let drop from time to time, that I was happy in high school. I try desperately to think of a dark secret in my upbringing. All I can think of is Chubby, the collie dog.

    "Well, there's Chubby, the collie dog," I say, tentatively.

    "Chubby, the collie dog?" they repeat.

    There really was a collie named Chubby. I wouldn't claim that the secret about him qualifies as certifiably traumatic, but maybe it explains an otherwise mysterious loyalty I had as a boy to the collie stories of Albert Payson Terhune. We owned Chubby when I was two or three years old. He was sickly. One day Chubby disappeared. My parents told my sister, Sukey, and me that he had been given to some friends who lived on a farm, so that he could thrive in the healthy country air. Many years later-as I remember, I was home on vacation from college-Chubby's name came up while my parents and Sukey and I were having dinner. I asked why we'd never gone to visit him on the farm. Sukey looked at me as if I had suddenly announced that I was thinking about eating the mashed potatoes with my hands for a while, just for a change of pace.

    "There wasn't any farm," she said. "That was just what they told us. Chubby had to be put to sleep."

    "Put to sleep!" I said. "Chubby's gone?"

    Somebody-my mother, I think-pointed out that Chubby would have been gone in any case, since collies didn't ordinarily live to the age of eighteen.

    "Isn't it sort of late for me to be finding this out?" I said.

    "It's not our fault if you're slow on the uptake," my father said.

    I never found myself in a memoirist gathering that required me to tell the story of Chubby, but, as it happened, I did relate the story in a book. A week or so later, I got a phone call from Sukey.

    "The collie was not called Chubby," she said. "The collie was called George. You were called Chubby."

    1998

    Geography

    Geography was my best subject. You can imagine how I feel when I read that the average American high school student is likely to identify Alabama as the capital of Chicago. I knew all the state capitals. I knew major mineral resources. Missouri: lead and zinc. (That's just an example.) I learned so many geographical facts that I've had to spend a lot of time in recent years trying to forget them so I'll have room in my brain for some things that may be more useful. I don't hold with the theory that...

About the Author-
  • A longtime staff writer at The New Yorker, Calvin Trillin is also The Nation's deadline poet. His bestsellers range from the memoir About Alice to Obliviously On He Sails: The Bush Administration in Rhyme. He lives in Greenwich Village, which he describes as "a neighborhood where people from the suburbs come on weekends to test their car alarms."

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 4, 2011
    Humorist Trillin (A Heckuva Job; Deciding the Next Decider) entertains with this collection of his song lyrics, comic verse, and more than 130 of the brief essays he originally wrote for the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Nation, and his syndicated King Features column. His acerbic wit is evident in 50 poems, such as "Condoleezza Rice" ("So to serve her guy, she will testify to a lie she hopes you'll buy"), and his Barbra Streisand–styled song for Sarah Palin ("On a Clear Day, I See Vladivostok"). Jesting about everyday life, Trillin can get very close to the truth, as indicated by his 2006 shoe bomber comments in which he predicted the 2009 underwear bomber: "If someone is arrested one of these days and is immediately, because of his MO, referred to in the press as the Underwear Bomber, you'll know I was onto something." He divides the material into sections, such as food, sports, holidays, New York ("I live in Greenwich Village, where people from the suburbs come on weekends to test their car alarms"), technology ("Everyone knows that the only people in an American family who understand electronic devices are the children"), language and literature ("The average shelf life of a book is somewhere between milk and yogurt"). Trillin dances around a subject, examines it from different angles, and often finds fun in the commonplace throughout this huge and hilarious comedic compendium.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2011

    Some of the best pieces of the esteemed humorist's long career.

    Trillin (Trillin on Texas, 2011, etc.) is best known for his writing on food and politics, and there's a feast of both in this collection of four decades of work. In "Missing Links," an essay on the Cajun dish boudin, he reveals a deep knowledge of regional cuisine while delivering wry takes on his culinary obsessiveness. In "Eating With the Pilgrims," he condemns bland Thanksgiving fare and lobbies for spaghetti carbonara as a replacement dish. As for politics, the book includes plenty of his light verse on legislators, mostly skewering Republicans. On Tom Delay: "Corruption's in his DNA. / It dominates his résumé." On John Boehner: "Can anything be said for Speaker Boehner? / Yes. Others in the party are insaner." But Trillin has held a range of interests throughout his career, and the book makes room for his critiques of high finance, satirical pieces about Jewish culture and self-deprecating pieces on his failures as a househusband: "A man who has a cross-indexed list of what's in his basement is not a little too well-organized, he's hateful." His late wife Alice, the subject of his 2007 memoir, About Alice, makes regular appearances in the book, often as a forbearing housewife. Trillin is a topical humorist, which means many jokes haven't aged well—why was Dick Lugar worth making fun of back in 1995? But the tone is always bright and genial, and gags about car alarms and corruption are deathless.

    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.

     

    (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2011

    There's no such thing as "quite enough" of Trillin, which this collection should prove by offering highlights of his best work. Worth considering even if you have all his other books.

    Copyright 2011 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    August 1, 2011
    A Yale-educated midwesterner with a long career as a writer and particularly keen eyes and good ears for regional quirks, Trillin has a treasury of essays to offer. This collection covers 40 years of observations that have appeared in the New Yorker, the Nation, the New York Times, and various books. It begins with biographical reflections on nicknames, dubious talents, and hometown remembrances of Kansas City. It goes on to skewer the media with a 1983 perspective on the revamped Vanity Fair and insider observations on the New Yorker. In a section devoted to 20 years of politics, Trillin offers short poems to a gallery of political figures that includes Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump. Trillin's family observations include a loving tribute to his wife, Alice, who died in 2001, and recollections of how fatherhood changed him as a person and a writer. Trillin fans will love this long look back over his career. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This collection of preeminent humorist Calvin Trillin's essays is slated to receive national review and media attention.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2011, American Library Association.)

  • The New Republic "A classic American humorist."
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