BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Calvin Trillin's Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin.
In Calvin Trillin’s antic tales of family life, she was portrayed as the wife who had “a weird predilection for limiting our family to three meals a day” and the mother who thought that if you didn’t go to every performance of your child’s school play, “the county would come and take the child.” Now, five years after her death, her husband offers this loving portrait of Alice Trillin off the page–his loving portrait of Alice Trillin off the page–an educator who was equally at home teaching at a university or a drug treatment center, a gifted writer, a stunningly beautiful and thoroughly engaged woman who, in the words of a friend, “managed to navigate the tricky waters between living a life you could be proud of and still delighting in the many things there are to take pleasure in.”
Though it deals with devastating loss, About Alice is also a love story, chronicling a romance that began at a Manhattan party when Calvin Trillin desperately tried to impress a young woman who “seemed to glow.”
“You have never again been as funny as you were that night,” Alice would say, twenty or thirty years later.
“You mean I peaked in December of 1963?”
“I’m afraid so.”
But he never quit trying to impress her. In his writing, she was sometimes his subject and always his muse. The dedication of the first book he published after her death read, “I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice.”
In that spirit, Calvin Trillin has, with About Alice, created a gift to the wife he adored and to his readers.
Trillin (A Heckuva Job: More of the Bush Administration in Rhyme), a staff writer with the New Yorker since 1963, has often written about the members of his family, notably his wife, Alice, whom he married in 1965. A graduate of Wellesley and Yale, she was a writer and educator who survived a 1976 battle with lung cancer. In 1981, she founded a TV production company, Learning Designs, producing PBS's Behind the Scenes to teach children creative thinking; her book Dear Bruno (1996) was intended to reassure children who had cancer. A weakened heart due to radiation treatments led to her death on September 11, 2001, at age 63. Avoiding expressions of grief, Trillin unveils a straightforward, honest portrait of their marriage and family life in this slim volume, opening with the suggestion that he had previously mischaracterized Alice when he wrote her into "stories that were essentially sitcoms." Looking back on their first encounter, he then focuses on her humor, her beauty, her "child's sense of wonderment," her relationship with her daughters and her concern for others. Trillin's 12-page "Alice, Off the Page" was published earlier this year in the New Yorker, and his expansion of his original essay into this touching tribute is certain to stir emotions.