The Friends of the Traverse Area District Library (TADL) are presenting An Evening with Calvin Trillin on Saturday, October 11 at 8 p.m. in the Michigan Ballroom at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme. The night includes both the featured program and a post program reception, and will be the second time the group has hosted a major author, following last years presentation with poet Billy Collins.
The buzz about Trillins engagement here has been strong ever since it was announced . Among his many credits are being a 40-year veteran of the *New Yorker* magazine and the author of a number of books on food and eating that are considered classics of the genre. His latest book, *Feeding A Yen: Savoring Local Specialties from Kansas City to Cuzco,* offers antic eating adventures and has been described as being to food writing what Chaplin is to film editing. Three other of his antic books on eating have been compiled into one volume as *The Tummy Trilogy: American Fried; Alice, Lets Eat and Third Helpings.*
His trademark is his witty, wry and ironic observations about life that are based with a distinct Midwestern perspective, something steeped in having been born and raised in Kansas City and refined by his longtime love affair with the city of New York, where he has lived for many years. Hes a serious writer in every regard, and in addition to his long list of book credits, he is respected for his work in humor, satire, fiction, columns, essays, poetry, novels and memoirs.
Trillins live performances have earned him a considerable legion of fans and served to introduce the uninitiated to his writing. His two one-man shows have been sell-outs at NYC‘s American Palace Theatre, and in reviewing “Words, No Music,“ *The New York Times* hailed Trillin as “the Buster Keaton of performance humorists.“ His frequent guest spots on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman reinforce his reputation as a classic American humorist, one who has personally has revised the mottoes that appear on state automobile license plates. Nebraska, for example is “a long way across,“ and Arkansas, on his first try, was a little verbose: “Not As Bad As You Might Imagine.“
He hasnt yet planned what specifically hell be talking about when he makes his first-ever visit to Traverse City, because Trillin says he doesnt prepare his speeches in advance or even “customize“ them in any way. As a result, he adds, the often-impromptu approach to the evening makes it as much of a surprise for him as it does for the audience.
“Sometimes Ill talk about styles of writing or about the process of writing books and I always try to inject some humor, but I never stick to one sort of program. I come prepared to talk about various,“ he said, with a laugh.
When asked about the role that his overall versatility plays in his being able to do just that, Trillin says that he believes it comes with the job of being a reporter, which is primarily how he views what he does.
“As a reporter, you can suddenly finding yourself in someone elses field, out of the realm of what you usually do, and the subject itself tends to decide what sort of form it will take, a column, an essay, verse, or the like,“ explained Trillin. “You learn to watch and listen carefully to opportunities as they present themselves, and sometimes, thats how the speaking gigs go for me.“
Another of Trillins secrets of the trade is that he says he doesnt write anything that he doesnt intend to publish. His output has been quite prolific over the past four decades and reflects the work of a man who truly loves the written word in all of its forms. When he decided to migrate from Kansas City to New York in 1963, he did so because the city seemed to be a mecca for writers, particularly those interested in the magazine industry.
He was able to land at the *New Yorker,* which he calls his “home base,“ and has been one of its most revered and popular contributors since. From that vantage point, has seen a great number of changes take place, both with the publication and on the citys vibrant literary scene.
“Ill always think of the *New Yorker* as where I work, and when I stop to think back on everything thats happened there during that time, its quite staggering,“ he said. “Its had its phases, in that in the first 20 years there, it seemed like nothing happened until a change of ownership and regime took things in a new direction. A true restoration happened with a focus on more news. That began a very good period thats continued since.“
As far as his adopted city, of which Trillin is a key member of its cultural community, he feels that New York continues to evolve and reinvent itself, something that has long been part of its many traditions.
“As a place and a city, its far better now than it was when I first came here. Id have to say that not all that much is different since the events of two years ago, because it is a place where change is so constant. With both the city and the literary scene, theres always something to look forward to, just as it is with theatre. Writers still come here to write, particularly if you want to write for magazines, which it happened that I did and still do.“
Trillin consistently has a myriad of projects and writing options to consider or that are in various stages of development. He just finished a piece that will appear shortly in the *New Yorker* on a flamboyant reporter named R.W. Apple Jr., who wrote “amazing pieces of journalism“ from somewhere in the United States at least once every three weeks between 1967-1982. Hes also working on an article for Gourmet, and will contribute to a section of a book dedicated to New Yorker cartoons.
And beyond those immediate assignments and a trip to Traverse City?
“Im never too sure whats ahead, and maybe thats some of what keeps it all surprising and fun, and even exciting,“ he concluded. Just like his speeches.
Tickets for An Evening with Calvin Trillin on Saturday, October 11 are $15 for adults and $7.50 for students, and are available at all TADL locations, including Traverse City, East Bay, Kingsley, Interlochen, Peninsula and Fife Lake Libraries and at the door the evening of the event. For more information, call (231) 932-8550.