American Stories

American Stories

by Calvin Trillin

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
These short New Yorker pieces on offbeat topics, usually revealing decay at the core of the American dream, are diminished by a certain sameness. (Oct.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Twelve nonfiction narratives on a diverse range of subjects, from one of America's top reporters of our culture. Included are pieces as varied as a murder-for-love in Kansas to the on- and off-screen antics of eccentric magicians Penn & Teller. Most originally appeared in Trillin's column in The New Yorker ; all showcase his ability to write ``the sort of stories you might tell in front of a fire,'' stories which ``require some time to unfold.'' Trillin skillfully draws us into the weird world of drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs as well as that of a young American student falling mortally ill in China. We learn to care about those being reported on, and we also enjoy the tale being told. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/91 . -- Pamela R. Daubenspeck, Warren-Trumbull Cty. P.L., Warren, Ohio
Kirkus Reviews
With this collection of "American Chronicles" from the pages of The New Yorker, Trillin (Enough's Enough, 1990, etc.), known for his sly drollery, displays his talents as a reporter, probing the wild heart of the nation in a dozen full-length pieces. If Truman Capote invented the nonfiction novel, as he claimed, and Norman Mailer devised variations on it, Trillin has perfected the nonfiction short story; moreover, his craftsmanship can contend with that of either Capote or Mailer at their best. With scant pyrotechnics but with lucid, organized prose, Trillin describes what happens when a Scout leader in Oregon is afflicted with homosexual pedophilia or a scratch farmer in Horse Cave, Kentucky, is persuaded that pot would be a good cash crop. He presents a Jekyll-and-Hyde movie reviewer in Texas and a sordid little murder case in Emporia, Kansas. There's manslaughter on the Virginia farm of a member of the patrician Saltonstall family, and the nasty activities of the Posse Comitatus in the fields of the American heartland. And though the author's land sometimes seems drenched in blood feuds, violence, and a surfeit of litigation, usually of the criminal sort, Trillin also offers an easygoing profile of "Fats" Goldberg, for whom he acts as a happy Boswell, and the story, gracefully moving, of an American's death in a distant land. Trillin's eye is sharp, of course. The list of ingredients in Ben and Jerry's ice cream, he tells us, "was done in the sort of hand printing often used on menus that list a variety of herbal teas." He has an alert reporter's ear, too. One Kentuckian, in the words of the local sheriff, "could come in here and sit down and talk you out of your shoes." Since life,as Trillin tells us, "goes on with or without a reporter present," he thoughtfully provides a brief postscript to each tale to bring us up to date. Engrossing true stories, filled with liars, lawsuits, and laughs. Mind your shoes.

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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