on August 30, 2006
Calvin Trillin has long been a writer of non-fiction pieces for The New Yorker magazine. He was the author of many of the pieces that appeared under the title of "U.S. Journal," - human interest articles from all over the country. Later he authored a longer series entitled "American Chronicles," which was pretty much the same kind of thing, only deeper in scope and with the narrative more fleshed out. This book collects a dozen of those pieces, all written between 1984 and 1991. All of them are fascinating stories, the type of stories, as Trillin writes, "you might tell in front of a fire."
Few of his stories captured national attention, or if they did, they rarely did so for long. But on the local level, many were riveting events: the killing of a child molester by a teenager in Oregon, a property dispute between two landowners in Virginia that led to a homicide, the murder of a man in Kansas by a minister who was having an affair with his wife. Legal issues and murder are prominent factors in many of these pieces, but Trillin also writes about less shocking things: the Ben & Jerry ice cream company, the magicians Penn & Teller, and the story of drive-in movie reviewer Joe Bob Briggs (perhaps the best of them all). Trillin writes clearly and directly; his ability to clarify convoluted plot developments (real life unfolds in a bumpy fashion) is most impressive. All of them, indeed, have that wonderful feeling of being told "in front of a fire." Entertaining and informative, it's non-fiction human interest writing at its best.
on December 30, 1999
In a style that couldn't be more his own, Trillin fascinates his audience with bizzare and distinctly "American" tales of true life. Shocking, moving, and sometimes hilarious, American Stories is a must-read for fans of the short-story genre. One glimpse of this potent recipe of American originality will have the reader espousing more hyperbole than Ross Perot at a revival meeting.
Trillin has the unique ability to not only tell the story, but to place the reader in the very real places he's writing about. This volume is a textbook example of how to achieve the delicate balance between passion and observation and it beautifully showcases Trillin's wit, wisdom and quirk.