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Calvin Trillin

Arts / Music / Drama, Chefs / Food, Humor, Journalism, Media / Broadcast / Print

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Calvin Trillin Profile

Calvin Trillin has been called “a classic American humorist” and The Nation’s “deadline poet.” He has written for The New Yorker for 40 years and published several books, including New York Times best-sellers, Obviously He Sails: The Bush Administration in Rhyme and its sequel, A Heckuva Job. Others include Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Election in Rhyme, Remembering Denny, Messages from My Father and About Alice, a 2007 New York Times best-seller hailed as “a miniature masterpiece.”

After graduating from Yale in 1957, Trillin spent some time in the army before becoming a writer for Time. He spent a year covering the South from the Atlanta bureau, then moved to New York. In 1963 he became a staff writer for The New Yorker, where he produced a highly-praised series of articles called “U.S. Journal.” In 1978, Trillin became a columnist for The Nation, writing what USA Today called “simply the funniest regular column in journalism.” The column was syndicated in newspapers for almost a decade.

Trillin has written and performed two one-man shows at the American Place Theater in New York. Both were critically-acclaimed and sold out. In his review of “Words, No Music,” New York Times theater critic, Mel Gussow, called Trillin “the buster Keaton of performance humorists.”

Currently, Trillin lectures widely and makes regular television appearances. He is a trustee of the New York Public Library and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

  • View Extended/Alternate Bio
      • Calvin Trillin, the author of Random House′s

    Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Election in Rhyme

      • , is

    The Nation

      • ′s “deadline poet.” He has been acclaimed in fields of writing that are remarkably diverse. As someone who has published solidly reported pieces in

    The New Yorker

      • for forty years, he has been called “perhaps the finest reporter in America.” His wry commentary on the American scene and his books chronicling his adventures as a “happy eater” have earned him renown as “a classic American humorist.” His

    About Alice

      • —a 2007

    New York Times

      • best seller that was hailed as “a miniature masterpiece”—followed two other best-selling memoirs,

    Remembering Denny

      • and

    Messages from My Father

      • .

    Trillin was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and now lives in New York. He graduated from Yale in 1957, did a hitch in the army, and then joined Time. After a year covering the South from the Atlanta bureau, he became a writer for Time in New York.

    In 1963, he became a staff writer for The New Yorker. From 1967 to 1982, he produced a highly praised series of articles for The New Yorker called “U.S. Journal”—3,000-word pieces every three weeks from somewhere in the United States, on subjects that ranged from the murder of a farmer′s wife in Iowa to the author′s effort to write the definitive history of a Louisiana restaurant called Didee′s “or to eat an awful lot of baked duck and dirty rice trying.” Some of the murder stories from that series were published in 1984 as Killings, a book that was described by William Geist in the New York Times Book Review as “that rarity, reportage as art.”

    From 1978 through 1985, Trillin was a columnist for The Nation, writing what USA Today called “simply the funniest regular column in journalism.” From 1986 through 1995, the column was syndicated to newspapers. From 1996 to 2001, Trillin did a column for Time. His columns have been collected in five books.

    Since 1990, Trillin has written a piece of comic verse weekly for The Nation. In 2004, he published Obliviously On He Sails: The Bush Administration in Rhyme. A sequel, A Heckuva Job, was published in 2006. Both were New York Times best-sellers.

    Trillin′s books have included three comic novels (most recently the national best-seller Tepper Isn′t Going Out) and a collection of short stories and a travel book and an account of the desegregation of the University of Georgia. Three of his antic books on eating—American Fried, Alice, Let′s Eat, andThird Helpings—were compiled in 1994 into a single volume called The Tummy Trilogy.

    He lectures widely, and has appeared often as a guest on television. He has written and presented two one man shows at the American Place Theater in New York—both of them critically acclaimed and both sell outs. In reviewing “Words, No Music,” in 1990, New York Times theater critic Mel Gussow called Trillin “the Buster Keaton of performance humorists.”

    Calvin Trillin is a trustee of the New York Public Library, a former trustee of Yale and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Calvin Trillin Speaking Videos

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Calvin Trillin's Speech Descriptions

Writer, poet, comedian and performer, Calvin Trillin provides presentation on topics including food, chefs, journalism and the media. Drawing on his writing experience, quirky sense of humor and the topics of his many books, Trillin informs and inspires his audiences using comedy and creativity.

Suggested Speaking Programs:

  • An Evening with Calvin Trillin

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Rating Entries

    About Alice

    Epitomizing what is best in personal narrative, noted humorist Calvin Trillin expands his acclaimed New Yorker essay into an eloquent, affecting eulogy for his adored wife, Alice — the lovable foil in his hilarious ruminations on family life. Although she played literary “straight man” to her husband’s more free-spirited persona, the real-life Alice was remarkably multifaceted. Beautiful, intelligent, and accomplished, she was an educator, a writer, and a cancer survivor who, in an ironic twist of fate, succumbed in 2001 to complications from radiation treatments. That she was also the abiding love of Trillin’s life shines forth incandescently from every page of this graceful, understated tribute.

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    A Heckuva Job: More of the Bush Administration in Rhyme

    Somehow, despite everything Calvin Trillin wrote about the Bush Administration in Obliviously On He Sails, his 2004 bestseller in verse, George W. Bush is still in the White House. Taking a philosophical view, Trillin has said, “We weren’t going to know whether you could bring down a presidency with iambic pentameter until somebody tried it.”

    Now Trillin is trying again, back at his pithy and hilarious best to comment on the President’s decision to go to war in Iraq (“Then terrorists could count on what we’d do: / Attack us, we’ll strike back, though not at you”), his religiosity (“He treats his critics in the press / As if they’re yapping Pekineses. / Reporters deal in mundane facts; / This man has got the word from Jesus”), and whether he was wearing a transmitting device in the first presidential debate (“Could this explain his odd expressions? Is there proof he / Was being told, ‘If you can hear me now, look goofy’?”)

    Trillin deals with the people around Bush, such as Nanny Dick Cheney and Mushroom Cloud Rice and Orange John Ashcroft and Orange John’s successor, Alberto Gonzales (“The A.G.’s to be one Alberto Gonzales— / Dependable, actually loyal über alles”). He tries to predict the behavior of the famously intemperate John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations in poems with titles like “Bolton Chases French Ambassador Up Tree” and “White House Says Bolton Can Do Job Even While in Straitjacket.”

    Finally, in dealing with whether the entire Bush Administration, like the unfortunate Brownie, has done a heckuva job, he composes a small-government sea chantey for the Republicans:

    ’Cause government’s the problem, lads,
    Americans would all do well to shun it.
    Yes, government’s the problem, lads.
    At least it is when we’re the ones who run it.

    Order Here

    Family Man

    Calvin Trillin begins his wise and charming ruminations on family by stating the sum total of his child-rearing advice: “Try to get one that doesn’t spit up. Otherwise, you’re on your own.” Suspicious of any child-rearing theories beyond “Your children are either the center of your life or they’re not,” Trillin has clearly reveled in the role of family man. Acknowledging the special perils to the privacy of people living with a writer who occasionally remarks, “I hope you’re not under the impression that what you just said was off the record,” Trillin deals with the subject of family in a way that is loving, honest, and wildly funny.

    Order Here

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Books by Calvin Trillin:
    About Alice

    Epitomizing what is best in personal narrative, noted humorist Calvin Trillin expands his acclaimed New Yorker essay into an eloquent, affecting eulogy for his adored wife, Alice — the lovable foil in his hilarious ruminations on family life. Although she played literary “straight man” to her husband′s more free-spirited persona, the real-life Alice was remarkably multifaceted. Beautiful, intelligent, and accomplished, she was an educator, a writer, and a cancer survivor who, in an ironic twist of fate, succumbed in 2001 to complications from radiation treatments. That she was also the abiding love of Trillin′s life shines forth incandescently from every page of this graceful, understated tribute.

    Order Here

    A Heckuva Job: More of the Bush Administration in Rhyme

    Somehow, despite everything Calvin Trillin wrote about the Bush Administration in Obliviously On He Sails, his 2004 bestseller in verse, George W. Bush is still in the White House. Taking a philosophical view, Trillin has said, “We weren’t going to know whether you could bring down a presidency with iambic pentameter until somebody tried it.”

    Now Trillin is trying again, back at his pithy and hilarious best to comment on the President’s decision to go to war in Iraq (“Then terrorists could count on what we’d do: / Attack us, we’ll strike back, though not at you”), his religiosity (“He treats his critics in the press / As if they’re yapping Pekineses. / Reporters deal in mundane facts; / This man has got the word from Jesus”), and whether he was wearing a transmitting device in the first presidential debate (“Could this explain his odd expressions? Is there proof he / Was being told, ‘If you can hear me now, look goofy’?”)

    Trillin deals with the people around Bush, such as Nanny Dick Cheney and Mushroom Cloud Rice and Orange John Ashcroft and Orange John’s successor, Alberto Gonzales (“The A.G.’s to be one Alberto Gonzales— / Dependable, actually loyal über alles”). He tries to predict the behavior of the famously intemperate John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations in poems with titles like “Bolton Chases French Ambassador Up Tree” and “White House Says Bolton Can Do Job Even While in Straitjacket.”

    Finally, in dealing with whether the entire Bush Administration, like the unfortunate Brownie, has done a heckuva job, he composes a small-government sea chantey for the Republicans:

    ’Cause government’s the problem, lads,
    Americans would all do well to shun it.
    Yes, government’s the problem, lads.
    At least it is when we’re the ones who run it.

    Order Here

    Family Man

    Calvin Trillin begins his wise and charming ruminations on family by stating the sum total of his child-rearing advice: “Try to get one that doesn′t spit up. Otherwise, you′re on your own.” Suspicious of any child-rearing theories beyond “Your children are either the center of your life or they′re not,” Trillin has clearly reveled in the role of family man. Acknowledging the special perils to the privacy of people living with a writer who occasionally remarks, “I hope you′re not under the impression that what you just said was off the record,” Trillin deals with the subject of family in a way that is loving, honest, and wildly funny.

    Order Here

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