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on 29 July 1996
Calvin Trillin is like a tall glass of iced tea after a hot day. His reporting style, perfected across
the years in the pages of TIME and the NEW YORKER, is unlike any other in the field. A native Kansas
City boy, he gives creedence to the idea of Mid-Western taciturnity, eschewing flowery prose or even artful
structure to simply tell what he has to tell. In the case of his weekly column for TIME, that brevity of
word only makes what he has to say even funnier. For proof, check out his collections (the recent "Too
Soon To Tell") to remember that intelligence, humility and wit usually went hand in hand in the old
days of reportage. Cross Edward R. Murrow with Garrison Keillor, and you've found Trillin. But even he
has developed a beauty of style all his own.
Now he turns his attention to that most painful and mushy of topics, the parent, in his superb new memoir
"Messages From My Father," an observation from a grown son to his deceased patriarch. The memoir business
has been burgeoning lately, with moving evocations of the past produced from such disparate writers as white-
knuckled reporter Pete Hamill (A Drinking Life) to poet Mary Karr (The Liar's Club) but Trillin never calls
attention to a plight or condition, never once opens up his family secrets for triage but instead pulls off
the hat trick of talking about his father and his family while growing up in post-war America without a trace
of false notes or cheap sentiment. Abe Trillin emerges from the book as a decent believer in the American Dream
and its unbiased blessing on all the children of immigrants. Son Calvin looks at him honestly, his quirks
(always wearing yellow ties, "swearing off" coffee without ever drinking it to begin with) his stubbornness
and his enduring hope for his young boy; all topics of great drama, but rendered with good humor and genuine,
clear-eyed honesty. Fathers and Sons have rarely been prodded in such a way to expose true feeling, instead of
simple sentiment. Trillin, as always, reminds his readers to cut through the myths that cloud our judgments
of our blood and ourselves and laugh. Maybe then, he hopes, we'll understand the myth of fatherhood a little
more.
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on 6 December 1998
A fine book for any man to read who is a: beyond forty five years old, b: has sons, c: possibly was brought up Jewish. All or some of the above would enjoy this book. I am reminded of my own father, his triumphs and shortcomings and Calvin's book is a must for any person who wants a quick fun read with interesting messages. I started it, and finished it the same morning! I could not put it down...
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on 24 January 2013
Anyone who likes Calvin Trillin will love this book. It's funny, yet serious, with the usual amount of quips that make will make you out loud
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