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About Alice /
Calvin Trillin.
imprint
New York : Random House, c2006.
description
78 p. : 1 port. ; 21 cm.
ISBN
1400066158, 9781400066155
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Random House, c2006.
isbn
1400066158
9781400066155
catalogue key
6124628
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
Chapter 1 Now that it's fashionable to reveal intimate details of married life, I can state publicly that my wife, Alice, has a weird predilection for limiting our family to three meals a day. Alice, Let's Eat There was one condolence letter that made me laugh. Naturally, a lot of them made me cry. Some of those, oddly enough, were from people who had never met Alice. They had become familiar with her as a character in books and magazine pieces I'd writtenlight books and magazine pieces about traveling or eating or family life. Virtually all those letters began in the same way, with a phrase like "Even though I never really knew Alice. . . ." I was certain of what Alice's response would have been. "They're right about that," she would have said. "They never knew me." I once wrote that tales about writers' families tend to have a relation to real life that can be expressed in terms of standard network-television fare, on a spectrum that goes from sitcoms to Lifetime movies, and that mine were sitcoms. Now that I think of it, maybe they were more like the Saturday-morning cartoons. Alice played the role of the momthe voice of reason, the sensible person who kept everything on an even keel despite the antics of her marginally goofy husband. Years ago, at a conference of English teachers where we were both speakers, the professor who did the introductions said something like "Alice and Bud are like Burns and Allen, except she's George and he's Gracie." Yes, of course, the role she played in my stories was based on the role she played in our familyour daughters and I sometimes called her T.M., which stood for The Motherbut she didn't play it in the broad strokes of a sitcom mom. Also, she was never completely comfortable as the person who takes responsibility for keeping things on an even keel; that person inevitably misses out on some of the fun. ("I feel the need to break out of the role of straight person," she said in a Nation review of Alice, Let's Eat that cautioned readers against abandoning long-planned European vacations in order to scour the country for "the perfect roast polecat haunch.") The sitcom presentation sometimes made her sound stern as well as wise, and she was anything but stern. She had something close to a child's sense of wonderment. She was the only adult I ever knew who might respond to encountering a deer on a forest path by saying, "Wowsers!" Once, during a question-and-answer period that followed a speech I had given at the Herbst Theatre, in San Francisco, someone asked how Alice felt about the way she was portrayed in my books and articles. I said that she thought the portrayal made her sound like what she called "a dietitian in sensible shoes." Then the same questioner asked if Alice was in the audience, and, when I said she was, he asked if she'd mind standing up. Alice stood. As usual, she looked smashing. She didn't say anything. She just leaned over and took off one of her shoesshoes that looked like they cost about the amount of money required in some places to tide a family of four over for a year or twoand, smiling, waved it in the air. She wasn't a dietitian in sensible shoes, and she would have been right in saying that the people whose exposure to her had been through my stories didn't know her. Still, in the weeks after she died I was touched by their letters. They may not have known her, but they knew how I felt about her. It surprised me that they had managed to divine that from reading stories that were essentially sitcoms. Even after I'd taken in most episod
First Chapter
Chapter 1

Now that it’s fashionable to reveal intimate details of married life, I can state publicly that my wife, Alice, has a weird predilection for limiting our family to three meals a day.
—Alice, Let’s Eat

There was one condolence letter that made me laugh. Naturally, a lot of them made me cry. Some of those, oddly enough, were from people who had never met Alice. They had become familiar with her as a character in books and magazine pieces I’d written—light books and magazine pieces about traveling or eating or family life. Virtually all those letters began in the same way, with a phrase like “Even though I never really knew Alice. . . .” I was certain of what Alice’s response would have been. “They’re right about that,” she would have said. “They never knew me.”

I once wrote that tales about writers’ families tend to have a relation to real life that can be expressed in terms of standard network-television fare, on a spectrum that goes from sitcoms to Lifetime movies, and that mine were sitcoms. Now that I think of it, maybe they were more like the Saturday-morning cartoons. Alice played the role of the mom—the voice of reason, the sensible person who kept everything on an even keel despite the antics of her marginally goofy husband. Years ago, at a conference of English teachers where we were both speakers, the professor who did the introductions said something like “Alice and Bud are like Burns and Allen, except she’s George and he’s Gracie.” Yes, of course, the role she played in my stories was based on the role she played in our family—our daughters and I sometimes called her T.M., which stood for The Mother—but she didn’t play it in the broad strokes of a sitcom mom. Also, she was never completely comfortable as the person who takes responsibility for keeping things on an even keel; that person inevitably misses out on some of the fun. (“I feel the need to break out of the role of straight person,” she said in a Nation review of Alice, Let’s Eat that cautioned readers against abandoning long-planned European vacations in order to scour the country for “the perfect roast polecat haunch.”) The sitcom presentation sometimes made her sound stern as well as wise, and she was anything but stern. She had something close to a child’s sense of wonderment. She was the only adult I ever knew who might respond to encountering a deer on a forest path by saying, “Wowsers!”

Once, during a question-and-answer period that followed a speech I had given at the Herbst Theatre, in San Francisco, someone asked how Alice felt about the way she was portrayed in my books and articles. I said that she thought the portrayal made her sound like what she called “a dietitian in sensible shoes.” Then the same questioner asked if Alice was in the audience, and, when I said she was, he asked if she’d mind standing up. Alice stood. As usual, she looked smashing. She didn’t say anything. She just leaned over and took off one of her shoes—shoes that looked like they cost about the amount of money required in some places to tide a family of four over for a year or two—and, smiling, waved it in the air. She wasn’t a dietitian in sensible shoes, and she would have been right in saying that the people whose exposure to her had been through my stories didn’t know her. Still, in the weeks after she died I was touched by their letters. They may not have known her, but they knew how I felt about her. It surprised me that they had managed to divine that from reading stories that were essentially sitcoms. Even after I’d taken in most episodes of The Honeymooners, after all, it had never occurred to me to ponder the feelings Ralph Kramden must have had for Alice Kramden. Yet I got a lot of lett
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2006-12-01:
Trillin's tribute to his late wife, Alice, was originally published in the March 27, 2006, issue of The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1963. Trillin's fans came to know Alice as the muse, accomplice, and traveling companion often mentioned in his magazine pieces and books (e.g., Alice, Let's Eat). This book begins with comments about condolence letters the author received from his fans, who felt they knew Alice as a friend. Trillin recalls incidents and events that reveal Alice's best qualities. She was a devoted parent, he explains, who valued family dinners and involvement in school activities. Her love of teaching found her offering courses at correctional facilities and drug treatment programs. She also produced a PBS series on visual and performing arts for children. As the story reveals, Alice realized that how one holds up in the face of a life-threatening illness is the measure of whether one remains in control of one's identity. While not at the center of the story, Trillin's account of Alice's attitude about her cancer serves as a positive lesson. Further, the love and respect Trillin shows for his wife surpasses the length of this slim volume. Recommended for larger public libraries.-Joyce Sparrow, Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas Cty., FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2007-02-26:
Trillin's narration of his loving reminiscences of his late wife Alice might best be described as an unobtrusive narration: he steps back and lets the words speak for themselves. Unlike many other autobiographical narrators, he does not try to create the illusion of spontaneity or intimacy, as though speaking directly to the listener. He reads clearly and with expression, but it is always obvious that he is reading from a printed text. As a result, this audio offers the same experience as reading the printed version: the listener is deeply moved by the words and gets a vivid picture of this complex and admirable woman, but the narration itself does not add additional emotional nuance or insight beyond what is in the words themselves. But the words are so powerful that Trillin's love and admiration for Alice still shine through. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 30). (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, October 2006
Booklist, November 2006
Library Journal, December 2006
New York Times Full Text Review, October 2009
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
In Calvin Trillin's antic tales of family life, she was portrayed as the wife who had "a weird predilection for limiting our family to three meals a day" and the mother who thought that if you didn't go to every performance of your child's school play, "the county would come and take the child." Now, five years after her death, her husband offers this loving portrait of Alice Trillin off the pagehis loving portrait of Alice Trillin off the pagean educator who was equally at home teaching at a university or a drug treatment center, a gifted writer, a stunningly beautiful and thoroughly engaged woman who, in the words of a friend, "managed to navigate the tricky waters between living a life you could be proud of and still delighting in the many things there are to take pleasure in." Though it deals with devastating loss, About Alice is also a love story, chronicling a romance that began at a Manhattan party when Calvin Trillin desperately tried to impress a young woman who "seemed to glow." "You have never again been as funny as you were that night," Alice would say, twenty or thirty years later. "You mean I peaked in December of 1963?" "I'm afraid so." But he never quit trying to impress her. In his writing, she was sometimes his subject and always his muse. The dedication of the first book he published after her death read, "I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice." In that spirit, Calvin Trillin has, withAbout Alice, created a gift to the wife he adored and to his readers.
Main Description
In Calvin Trillin's antic tales of family life, she was portrayed as the wife who had "a weird predilection for limiting our family to three meals a day" and the mother who thought that if you didn't go to every performance of your child's school play, "the county would come and take the child." Now, five years after her death, her husband offers this loving portrait of Alice Trillin off the pagehis loving portrait of Alice Trillin off the pagean educator who was equally at home teaching at a university or a drug treatment center, a gifted writer, a stunningly beautiful and thoroughly engaged woman who, in the words of a friend, "managed to navigate the tricky waters between living a life you could be proud of and still delighting in the many things there are to take pleasure in." Though it deals with devastating loss, About Alice is also a love story, chronicling a romance that began at a Manhattan party when Calvin Trillin desperately tried to impress a young woman who "seemed to glow." "You have never again been as funny as you were that night," Alice would say, twenty or thirty years later. "You mean I peaked in December of 1963?" "I'm afraid so." But he never quit trying to impress her. In his writing, she was sometimes his subject and always his muse. The dedication of the first book he published after her death read, "I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice." In that spirit, Calvin Trillin has, withAbout Alice, created a gift to the wife he adored and to his readers. From the Hardcover edition.

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