Calvin Trillin
Author / Journalist

What is the joy of writing?

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Although a writer never gets it quite perfect, the joy of laughter and discovery is enough to make a living.

Calvin Trillin

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)


Calvin Trillin:    Well it’s better than work for one thing.  I . . . At about every two or three years I make myself laugh.  It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes something just sneaks out before I can stop it and I laugh.  So if I . . .  I always figured if I got put in solitary confinement I would not be totally without resources.  I’d get a chuckle every couple of years.  My wife, when she heard me, would say, “I know that’s the silliest line in the piece that made you laugh.”   So there’s that kind of joy.  It’s satisfying.  I mean it’s satisfying to get something right.  I mean I think it’s the same feeling that somebody has in building a house or something; that it starts out looking like a mess and just a bunch of boards; and then a hole in the ground; and then eventually you get it so that . . .  You never get it quite perfect, but as close as you can get it if you have to make a living.