09 November 2011
I was so, so excited to get Calvin Trillin's new book, Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff, at the library.
But somehow when I got it home it just wasn't what I was expecting. It's a collection of Trillin's humorous pieces from the many places where he's been published: The New Yorker, The Nation, in books, etc. It's organized thematically; about five to seven pieces in chapters with such headings as "Biographically Speaking," "High Society and Just Plain Rich People," "Life Among the Literati," "Twenty Years of Pols--One Poem Each," etc. Because they're written by Calvin Trillin, all the pieces are funny. That wasn't the problem. I liked this bit, in which he suggests one of his wife Alice's economic suggestions:
"The true Alice Tax would probably inspire what the medical profession sometimes calls 'harumph palpitations' in those senators who used the word 'confiscatory' to describe a surcharge that would have brought the highest possible tax on incomes over a million dollars a year to 41 percent. To state the provisions of the Alice Tax simply, which is the only way Alice allows them to be stated, it calls for this: After a certain level of income, the government would simply take everything. When Alice says confiscatory, she means confiscatory...
Alice believes that at a certain point an annual income is simply more than anybody could possibly need for even a lavish style of living. She is willing to discuss what that point is. In her more flexible moments, she is even willing to listen to arguments about which side of the line a style of living that included, say, a large oceangoing boat should fall on. But she insists that there is such a thing as enough--a point of view that separates her from the United States Senate." (From 1990; pp. 109-110.)
The individual pieces were good, but for some reason I found the thematic ordering somewhat hard to follow. It threw me to learn that many of the pieces were published in the eighties or early nineties, and were sometimes about topics I just wasn't very familiar with. I think I would have preferred it in chronological order, so I could get a feeling for the context; or if the pieces' dates had been listed at their start so I knew "when" I was.