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  • Writer's pictureMarc Johnson

Calvin Trillin


Deadline Poet, Funny Guy, Serious Reporter

Calvin Trillin has covered the civil rights movement, produced some of the best long form journalism in recent times for The New Yorker, and written about food, travel and politics.

And oh, yes, he just may be the funniest guy in print in America. He’s coming to Boise next week.

Here is one of Trillin’s latest “Deadline Poems” from the Nation magazine.

Newt’s Surge

The pundits all can confidently speak

Of Gingrich as the flavor of the week.

The people who want anyone but Mitt

Now say, in desperation, Newt is it.

Yes, Newt’s astute – a crafty wheeler-dealer.

His baggage, though, would fill an eighteen-wheeler –

Affairs and ethics problems and, to boot,

His mouth is something often he’ll shoot.

And if he’s scratched because he lacks decorum?

What happens then? Get ready, Rick Santorum.

Trillin will present the Idaho Humanities Council’s 15th annual Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities on December 8 at the Boise Centre. Tickets are still available.

Trillin’s humor may be his trademark, but his body of work is truly impressive, including one of his U.S. Journal pieces for the New Yorker written from Boise in 1979. His little book on his late wife – About Alice – will have you laughing on one page and tearing up on the next. It is one of the sweetest pieces of writing you will ever hope to read.

Trillin relates the story of first meeting Alice at a party and pursuing her to another party days later.

“At the second party, I did get to talk to her quite a lot. … Recalling that party in later years, Alice would sometimes say, ‘You have never again been as funny as you were that night.’

“ ‘You mean I peaked in December of 1963?’ I’d say, 20 or even 30 years later.

“ ‘I’m afraid so.’ ”

Many of Trillin’s essays on food are classics of the genre. He once said: “The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”

He completely subscribes to the sensible notion that the higher the restuarant the more mediocre and costly the food. “I never eat in a restaurant that’s over a hundred feet off the ground and won’t stand still,” he says.

Trillin was Johnny Carson’s guest 30 times on the old Tonight Show and he’s a semi-regular now on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show.

If you want some fun in the company of an American original, order up a dose of Calvin Trillin next week. His latest book – Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin– is a collection of pieces dating back 40 years. It’s funny, profound, literary – all quite like Calvin Trillin.

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