Midwestern Values

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

TRANSCRIPT

Calvin Trillin: Kansas City, Missouri.The heart of America.Well it made me Midwestern, for one thing. And so I think that’s a somewhat different viewpoint . . . kind of worldview that . . . than particularly Easterners have. I always say Easterners are much more given to sort of analytical thinking of the sort that . . . If an Easterner says something like, “Is it an accident that these two things happened?” Midwesterners usually says, “Yeah probably. Probably an accident.” And there’s a sort of an undercutting quality in the Midwest of . . . I mean the worst thing that could happen to you is to have someone tell your mother at the supermarket that you’d gotten too big for your britches. And that’s a particularly Midwestern quality, I think. And I used to make up license plates for various states, or talk about the difference in license plates. License plate mottos I mean, not the numbers. I let them do those themselves. And like some Midwestern states are so modest they don’t actually have mottos on their license plate, and I would make them up. Like Nebraska was “A Long Way Across”. And I always thought that if there had been a regional license plate for the Midwest, the motto would be “No Big Deal”.

 

Recorded on: 9/5/07

 

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