Earlier this year, the Times Union ran a Miami Herald review of “About Alice.” Click “more” for an excerpt.
The prose of Calvin Trillin, witty and light as gossamer, has been harnessed to a sorrow profound enough for Dostoyevsky. The great American satirist writes of his epic love and epic loss in “About Alice,” (Random House; 96 pages; $14.95) but in the same wry style familiar to readers of The New Yorker and The Nation, where for 40 years he has contributed essays, often humorous, and poetry, often hilarious, about politics, murder, urban living, family life and adventurous eating. But this book is about Alice Stewart Trillin. His Alice. The other half of a much admired literary couple. And about her death and the hole left in Calvin Trillin’s heart.
“About Alice” remembers how she faced serious illness with considerable courage and humor and a writer’s insight. And it’s about the void in Trillin’s life after her death in 2001. No matter how much humor leavens these pages, the effect is as heartbreaking as an overwrought Russian tragedy.The Trillins met in 1963 at a party for a rapidly failing satirical magazine “that proved more durable as a marriage brokerage than a magazine.” The Trillins became one of those famous New York couples. She was the writer, editor, educator, TV producer. He was the sophisticated writer everyone loved. “About Alice,” though, tells us that Trillin’s essays and novels and poems were all written for an audience of one. The dedication of his first book was “For Alice.” The dedication of his most recent novel: “I wrote this for Alice. Actually I wrote everything for Alice.”
He was trying to impress his girl. The rest of us, the fans of his work, were only interlopers, peeking at the private correspondence of two lovers.