, , , , , , , , ,

Having the good fortune to live in the same city where the independent bookstore Politics & Prose is located, I stopped in last night to see and hear one of my favorite authors, humorist Calvin Trillin.

NYTimes photo

Trillin was in town to promote his latest book, Dogfight, a slim volume of his ‘deadline’ poetry (doggeralls, so to speak) about the 2012 Presidential campaign. This book is a sequel to his 2008 Deciding the Next Decider.

Lamenting that only one party had a primary fight and that he had already used up his Obama rhymes in 2008, he told the assembled (and aging) audience that he liked ‘iambic candidates,’ such as Ross Perot, John McCain, Chris Dodd, and Bob Dole. He read from his new book, mostly poking fun at Mitt Romney and the string of Republican candidates who ‘challenged’ him. He also admitted he once told Hilliary Clinton she had a bad name and was “insufficiently iambic.”  He claimed Hilliary took that as a great complement.

Mixed in with his ‘poetry’ in Dogfight are perhaps a half dozen “Pauses for Prose,” most of which I think are probably better than his poems.  In fact, generally I think his prose is much better than his verse.

But Trillin has long been a hero of mine, especially since he campaigned for making spaghetti carbonara our national dish and also admitted he didn’t like turkey and always “goes for Chinese” on Thanksgiving.

Trillin was born (1935) and grew up in Kansas City and has written for most of his life for The Nation and The New Yorker magazines. He has somehow maintained, retained, Midwestern cultural and regional values despite his living in Greenwich Village for more than 40 years. The title of this post, “You Might as Well Be a Mensch,” is his often quoted line of the advice his Kansas City father gave him.

If you don’t know Calvin Trillin and if you enjoy a dry sense of humor, mixed with self-deprecation and writings about family (specifically his two daughters, Sarah and Abigail and his wife Alice), food, and travel, you have some fun ahead.

You could start with any of these:

*About Alice

*Messages from My Father

*Family Man

*Remembering Denny

*The Tummy Trilogy (“American Fried,” “Alice, Let’s Eat,” and “Third Helpings”)

*Travels with Alice

*Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin (40 Years of Funny Stuff)