Calvin Trillin on the Young "New Yorker" Managing Editor

Calvin Trillin is a journalist, humorist and novelist. Best known for his humorous writing about food and eating, he is also the author of several books of fiction, nonfiction essays, comic verse and plenty of more serious journalism.

Trillin was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1935. He received his BA from Yale University, where he was chair of the Yale Daily News, in 1957. In 1963, after a serving in the U.S. Army and then working at Time magazine for a short time, Trillin joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine, where his reporting on racial integration at the University of Georgia eventually developed into his first book, An Education in Georgia: Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes and the Integration of the University of Georgia. Trillin's 1967-1982 column "U.S. Journal" for The New Yorker documented events throughout the nation, both funny and serious; since 1984, he has written a series of longer, narrative pieces under the title "American Chronicles."

Trillin is also a longtime contributor to The Nation magazine - is, in fact, the single most prolific contributor to that magazine to date. From 1978-1980 he penned a column called "Variation"; from 1984-1990 another called "Uncivil Liberties"; and from 1990 to the present a weekly one called "Deadline Poem" consisting of humorous poems about current events.

Calvin Trillin's most recent novel is Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme (Nov. 2008)

  • Transcript


Question:  What is the significance of the new 26-year old managing editor of the New Yorker?

Calvin Trillin: I think that’s a misunderstanding of who the managing editor is, or what the managing editor does at The New Yorker. There didn’t used to be any of those titles, but now there are and I don’t know who that is now, but oh, maybe 10 or 15 years ago it was somebody who was the same age; we called him editor boy, and the managing editor is not like the managing editor of a news magazine who’s in charge of something. He’s actually a sort of traffic cop who makes sure that whatever piece is ready for that issue gets in or something. It’s kind of hard to follow because each of these magazines has a different way of showing who’s in charge. At Time it was always the managing editor, and the editor is sort of like the governor general of Canada. It doesn’t really have any say in anything. At The Times the magazine editor is the number two, and the executive editor is the boss, but at The New Yorker to the extent that anybody knows anybody’s title which is unusual and there’s no masthead you’ll notice at The New Yorker. I think the managing editor just means the guy who’s sort of in charge of the logistics. It’s not a decision making job.

Recorded on:  October 8, 2009