Calvin Trillin's Top Five

shelved under Americana

Calvin Trillin is one of America’s most prolific and versatile writers. To date, he has published twenty-six books, most recently (as of this writing) Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme. He has written books of fiction, verse, political commentary, family memoir, and travel. He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1963 and is a longtime contributor to The Nation.

Here’s a Trillin top five that highlights his inventive use of the interrogative, each with some key questions pulled from the text.


About Alice

by Calvin Trillin

A sweet and compelling marriage memoir that Trillin wrote after his wife Alice passed away. Key Questions: "But will he love me like Calvin loves Alice? You mean I peaked in December of 1963?"

This book also appears on Odes to Dead Spouses


Remembering Denny

by Calvin Trillin, afterword by John Gregory Dunne

Denny Hansen was a Yale golden boy who never lived up to the expectations of his classmates, committing suicide after a career as a mid-level bureaucrat. Trillin examines the reasons behind Hansen’s unfulfilled promise. Key Questions: "President of what? Whatever happened to that Hansen boy? Could it have been that long since Denny and I had seen each other? Do we ask too much of our most able young people?"


Tepper Isn't Going Out

by Calvin Trillin

A comic novel about parking spaces in NYC. It also has a neat subplot about direct mail retailing. Key Questions: "Going out? Are you going out? He's not going out? What do you mean he's not going out? Hey, are you going out or not, man? Or is that where you live? Is that car, like, rent controlled? Are you looking for a spot?"


The Tummy Trilogy

by Calvin Trillin

Collects three of Trillin’s great "eating" books (Trillin from a recent New Yorker web reader Q&A: "I don’t cook and I’ve never reviewed a restaurant. I write about a eating as a way to write about American life.") Key Questions: "Could there be a French-fries booth that includes both French fries from Arthur Bryant's Barbecue in Kansas City — cooked in pure lard, with some of the skin left on here and there — and the pommes frites served in a chic Santa Monica restaurant called Michael's? How could I describe my response to being told that Baxters Road was no longer the preferred spot in Barbados for eating fried fish? Could it be, I asked Alice, that fried fish is simply better than grilled fish?"



by Calvin Trillin

These stories of murder, accidental death, and suicide originally appeared in Trillin’s U.S. Journal reports from The New Yorker. This book showcases his abilities as a reporter, as he captures the unique setting and odd circumstance of each death. Key Questions: "Had they taunted Ison by saying he was shooting blanks? Did you ever see Uncle Bob in the winter when he didn't have his socks pulled up over his pants legs to keep out the cold? Now, was Uncle Bob crazy? Would a man really commit premeditated murder for the rather indirect benefit of acquiring two hundred thousand dollars for a corporation he owned one-quarter of? Would a man murder to remove a ceiling of fifteen thousand dollars on his salary?"