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Calvin Trillin | The Nation

Calvin Trillin

Author Bios

Calvin Trillin

Verse Columnist

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 Yorkerfor 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 FriedAlice, 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.

Articles

News and Features

(A preventive-war anthem sung to the tune of "Trees," by Joyce
Kilmer, with piano accompaniment)

A lot of folks die.
At last the war ends.
The world is made safe
For Dick Cheney's friends.

Let's say that from the east while you look south
An icy snowball hits you in the mouth.
You see the kid who did it run, the wretch,

And so for Richard Perle was writ
The second graf of his obit:
This soaring bird of hawkish myth
Was grounded when discovered with
His talon in the cookie jar

The plans to start this war were laid
Within the Sissy Hawk Brigade--
A band of Vietnam evaders
All puffed up now as tough crusaders.

The Senate Democrats sat mum,
Like doves afraid to coo.
So history will soon record
This war as their war too.

Whose name stands out like banners made of Day-Glo?
The State Union of Serbia and Montenegro!
What sounds as if it's jerry-built by Lego?

The Kurds are in the way again,
And so, to our dismay again,
If we begin a fray again,
As it appears we may again,
It seems we must betray again

They're relegated to the side.
This role--which they cannot abide,
Which torments Frenchmen day and night--
Can make them do things out of spite.