Wednesday, April 23, 2008

about alice

i started and finished reading calvin trillin's "about alice" in a couple of hours last night (i can take no credit for freakish speed-reading skills...it's a slim volume with lots of breathing room on the page). calvin trillin was introduced to me by way of my friend evilhomer and for that i am eternally grateful. he's probably my favorite food writer. witty and sly, with an honest-to-goodness, full-bellied, gusto for the pleasures of the table and gustatory indulgences that hint at his "aw shucks" upbringing in kansas city, missouri. it is to the credit of his essential decency that his yale education and subsequent career as a staff writer for the "new yorker" didn't manage to mar his midwestern sensibilities and companionable writing style with pastoral irony. alice trillin was his beloved wife and muse, who passed away in 2001. she made frequent and consistent appearances in his food writing and his love for her and the comforts of their home suffused each page with a humanity and life that belied the sitcom-esque stylings of the vignettes that featured their day to day movements in time.

the degree to which calvin trillin was (is) so unabashedly smitten with his wife made me cry while i read this paean to the alice faithful readers didn't know, the alice who existed off the page, and indeed - is making me cry (maybe i'm pmsing) as i type these words. in his writings she was stuck playing the straight-man to his soft, clumsy, mildly shlubby everyman. rebecca traister, writing in salon to entreat people to read the short piece from which this longer book was expanded, says this:

"For anyone who has known a George-and-Gracie couple, or has been half of one, it should be abundantly clear that the prudent partner has chosen a life with the "marginally goofy" mate for a reason -- presumably, a marginal goofiness of their own -- and that the marginally goofy person chooses a rudder because he or she wants, on many levels, some light steering."

for someone like me, a product of a broken (subsequently mended) home, beset and impressed upon by a (mostly) happy pack of unconventional relationships, the sweetness and tenderness of this portrait makes a compelling case for reveling in those quiet moments between the storms of life, when gazing into the eyes of a loved one and seeing the tacit understanding and off-handed acceptance that resides therein can represent in totality all the grace the world has to offer. to know and be known, completely, is a solace and buffer against the impassiveness of time. calvin trillin knew alice and this book is a testament to her legacy.

read it.

i think i'm going to take dr. rei to el trompo for dinner tonight. i've been craving tacos like crazy and my marathon session with the dotytron at tacos el asador last friday did little to assuage the hunger for carnitas, crema, and chorizo. i'll post a review soon.

fin.

2 comments:

dr.rei said...

what a lovely post...you rock, guy. i can't wait to get old and fat together.

Anonymous said...

I heard Trillan talk about the book on NPR when it first came out. I'll seek it out!!

love ya,
T