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 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.
In '96 poor Forbes was thought
To be less zealous than he ought
To be on things like baby-killing.
So now he's showing that he's willing
Elizabeth Dole is all perfection.
She shoots one take, without exception.
She drives her staff so no step's spared
To get an ad-libbed speech prepared.
Since you weren't bent all out of shape
By hearing Bill accused of rape,
It's now assumed that it won't trouble you
To hear some dirt about George W.
'Cause Washington Week in Review
Had made insufficient ado,
A jazzy new boss
Gave Bode the toss,
Not knowing a storm would ensue.
Says super-tough guy Giuliani:
To fight this mighty Amazon, he
Is salivating. Yes, to beard her
He'd get real tough (and even weirder).
Good Christian kids must study Tinky Winky
To try to catch him doing something kinky.
From Blumenthal and Hitchens having lunch,
A sideshow has emerged that causes spec-
Ulation touching ethics and such things:
It might make sense to end it now, except
That wouldn't show the managers respect.
So even if their case now seems inert,
'Twas said the honest folks of Salt Lake City
Deplored sins large and even itty-bitty.
But, trying for the Games, they thought it pretty
Chief Justice Rehnquist now presides.
He rules the chamber that decides
If Clinton should remain or go.
This role's important, that we know.