What do you do?

According to his late wife, Trillin is more a writer than a reporter.
  • Transcript


Question: Beyond a simple title, how would you describe what you do for a living?

Calvin Trillin: Well there isn’t any simple title, so it has to be beyond a simple title. I used to say I was a reporter. And I live in Nova Scotia in the summer, and my wife used to say, “You shouldn’t say you’re a reporter when people ask you what you do. You’re actually more like a writer than a reporter ‘cause you do a lot of other things.” And so the next time we came home from Nova Scotia, we were in the customs line after getting off the ferry at our harbor late at night, and these two sweet little girls sleeping the back seat. And the guys said, “What do you do?” And I said, “I’m a writer.” And they just took the car apart on me, and I think they took the hubcaps off. And I said, “I’m going back to being a reporter. I think I’d rather describe myself as a reporter.” I think what I do is all based on being a reporter, but it comes out in different ways. I . . . The New Yorker has been sort of headquarters for what I do since 1963, so for a long time. And most of the stuff I’ve done for The New Yorker, certainly by words, has been relatively straight reporting; but I’ve also done attempts at humor for The New Yorker, and I’ve written . . . For about 20 years I wrote a column, “First For the Nation”, and then for newspaper syndication, and then for Time magazine. And I now still write what we call “Deadline Poetry for the Nation”. That’s more averse than poetry. The word “___________” has been used also to describe it. And I’ve written a few memoirs and a few novels. So I write a lot of different things. I think my publisher says in releases, “I’m very versatile.” The other way to look at it is I’ve never quite gotten my act together.