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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

The corporate types are firmly in control.
The Russians, it appears, have sent a mole
To steal our secrets. And the Chinese wait
For tension to develop in their Strait.
It's all so fifties! Wouldn't it be weird
If Engine Charlie Wilson reappeared?

They'll check for salmonella, kids,
It's safe as mozzarella, kids,
Light up a panatella, kid.
You've nothing more to fear.

Give thanks for this new fella, kids.
Sing praises a cappella, kids.
Let Bush be your umbrella, kids.
Compassion's finally here.

McCain and Feingold seem to have Big Mo:
Soft money could now face a total ban.
Which means some folks who've bought pols in the past
Need now select a different purchase plan.

Yes, arsenic's in what we drink.
That's not as scary as you think.
Sure, hidden in the stroganoff
It's used for knocking people off.
But in your water it's OK.
That's what the mining interests say.
And W. now says so, too.
It mixes well with CO2.

Yes, W. once took the view
That CO2 is bad for you.
He says he's had a turnabout:
We make this stuff when breathing out,
So dangerous is what it's not.
From lobbyists you learn a lot.

But won't our ozone cover scatter?
So? Nader said it wouldn't matter.

The President's demanding proper dress--
A tie, a coat, a shine on shoes or boots.
Some citizens may find this a relief:
We've now returned to government by suits.

Though Bush the Elder was convinced
His boy was now a man, he
Decided, just to hedge his bet,
To furnish him a nanny.

Attentive parents always have
A way of keeping track.
If nanny isn't feeling well,
Will Dad come hurrying back?

As Bush finds backs to pat and hands to
shake,
The Democrats can't seem to buy a break.
The
opposition doesn't coalesce,
Because the spotlight's on the
Clinton mess,
A mess that's just like catnip to the
press.
Afraid that he will never go away,
The Democrats by
now just want to say,

Avoid the headlines, can't
you, Bill?
Speak softly, please, not louder.
Eschew the
networks, can't you, Bill?
Enough, man! Take a
powder!

Ignored as long as he is on the
stage,
The Democrats, befuddled, try to gauge
How he, amidst
the sleaze, seems so unfazed
While they are crazed, and find
themselve amazed
At all the oxygen the man
inhales,
As he on his sword himself
impales.

Avoid the headlines, can't you,
Bill?
They say. At any cost!
Eschew the networks, can't you,
Bill?
Could you please just get lost?

Apply a little grease
(Denise).
Then buy yourself an in
(Jack Quinn).