Calvin Trillin, author of the novel Tepper Isn’t Going Out (Random House, 2002), has been acclaimed in fields of writing that are remarkably diverse. As someone who has published solidly reported pieces in The New Yorker for 40 years, he has been called “perhaps the finest reporter in America.” His antic commentary on the American scene, and his books chronicling his adventures as a happy eater, have earned him the title of a classic American humorist. His best-selling Remembering Denny (1993) was hailed as “an elegiac, disturbing and altogether brilliant memoir.”
Trillin was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri and now lives in New York City. He graduated from Yale University in 1957, did a hitch in the army, and then joined Time magazine. 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 1976 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 efforts to write the definitive history of a Louisiana restaurant called Dedee’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 Toda y called “simply the funniest regular column in journalism.” From 1986 through 1995, the column was syndicated to newspapers. These columns were collected in five books: Uncivil Liberties (1982), With All Disrespect (1985), If You Can’t Say Something Nice (1988), Enough’s Enough (1990), and Too Soon to Tell (1995). From 1996 to 2001, Trillin did a column for Time.
Since 1990, Trillin has written a piece of comic verse weekly for The Nation. In 1994, he published Deadline Poet, his account of being a commentator-in-rhyme on the news of the day.
Trillin’s work has included two other comic novels, a collection of short stories, a travel book and an account of the desegregation of the University of Georgia. His three antic books on eating – American Fried, Alive Let’s Eat, and Third Helpings – were compiled in 1994 into a single volume called The Tummy Trilogy. His memoirs include Messages From My Father, a New York Times best seller in 1996, and Family Man (1998).
Trillin 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 then critically acclaimed and both sell-outs. In reviewing the second one, Words, No Music, in the fall of 1990, New York Times theater critic Mel Gussow called Trillin “the Keaton of performance humorists.”