Calvin Trillin: A Writer Who Can Make You Smile

From the Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of humorist and writer Calvin Trillin, born in Kansas City, Missouri (1935). His father was a Ukrainian immigrant who ran a grocery store, a job that he hated. Trillin said, “It was a given in our family that my father was a grocer so that I wouldn’t have to be.”

His father read a novel called Stover at Yale about a young man’s years at Yale and his struggle with the social pressures there, and immediately decided that his son Calvin would go to Yale some day. And so he did.

Trillin described the typical Yale student as “the bright student council president from white middle-class high schools who had been selected by Yale to be buffed up a bit and sent out into the world prepared to prove their high-school classmates right in voting them most likely to succeed.”

He 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.”
An earlier post with Trillin being playful:

Calvin Trillin Has Some Fun With Joan Didion and John Henry Dunne

Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne.

The 1980s saw the revival of a glamorous—if ever more crowded—Manhattan. Even famous people, when trying to buy an apartment, had to grovel before the city’s co-op boards. John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion had been celebrated for their works of fiction and screenplays. But when they decided to move east from Los Angeles, they suspected they would need some solid references. They turned to their friend Calvin Trillin, who offered the co-op board this letter:

Ms. Dominique Richard
Alice F. Mason, Ltd.
30 East 60th Street
New York, N.Y. 10022

Dear Ms. Richard:

This is in answer to your inquiry of March 12 concerning Mr. and Mrs. John Gregory Dunne.

I have known both Mr. and Mrs. Dunne for more than twenty years, and I can say that they would make a splendid addition to any co-operative apartment building. As you may have learned by now from neighbors of Mr. and Mrs. Dunne in Brentwood, the role played by Mr. Dunne’s temper in the incidents there were greatly exaggerated in the press.

I have known the Dunne’s daughter, Quintana, since her infancy, and I can assure you that she is an attractive and responsible young woman who is working hard day and night on the grueling practice schedule necessary for anyone who aspires to be a successful punk-rock drummer. The dog that injured the UPS delivery man is hers.

In the event that you have been concerned about the presence of the male nurse who is retained to escort Mr. Dunne home on evenings out, I would like to put your mind at rest. The male nurse in question is remarkably skilled at keeping control without making a fuss. I understand that, by happy coincidence, he is related to your doorman, Mr. O’Leary, as is Mr. Dunne.

Mrs. Dunne is not Jewish.

Yours Sincerely,

Calvin Trillin

From Letters of the Century: America 1900-1999, edited by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler, published by The Dial Press.


  1. DorisGeenen Graf says

    It does make you smile. Thanks for sharing.

Speak Your Mind