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Remembering Denny

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A reissue of Calvin Trillin's memoir of his relationship with a brilliant but tragic Yale classmate that is also a rumination on social change in the 1950s and 1960s

Remembering Denny is perhaps Calvin Trillin's most inspired and powerful book: a memoir of a friendship, a work of investigative reporting, and an exploration of a country and a time that captures something essential about how America has changed since Trillin--and Denny Hansen--were graduated from Yale in 1957. ...

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Jacket is shelf-worn and may be lightly soiled, with chips and closed tears. Cover is clean, may show light shelf edge wear or corner bumps. Binding appears gently read, but still ... square and tight. Pages may contain former owner name or book plate and light reading wear. Read more Show Less

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Overview

A reissue of Calvin Trillin's memoir of his relationship with a brilliant but tragic Yale classmate that is also a rumination on social change in the 1950s and 1960s

Remembering Denny is perhaps Calvin Trillin's most inspired and powerful book: a memoir of a friendship, a work of investigative reporting, and an exploration of a country and a time that captures something essential about how America has changed since Trillin--and Denny Hansen--were graduated from Yale in 1957. Roger "Denny" Hansen had seemed then a college hero for the ages: a charmer with a dazzling smile, the subject of a feature in Life magazine, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, a varsity swimmer, a Rhodes scholar...perhaps a future president, as his friends only half-joked. But after early jobs in government and journalism, Hansen's life increasingly took a downward turn and he gradually lost touch with family and old friends before eventually committing suicide--an obscure, embittered, pain-racked professor--in 1991. In contemplating his friend's life, Calvin Trillin considers questions both large and small--what part does the pressure of high expectations place on even the most gifted, how difficult might it have been to be a closeted homosexual in the unyielding world of the 1960s Foreign Service, how much responsibility does the individual bear for all that happens in his life--in a book that is also a meditation on our country's evolving sense of itself.

A memoir about how America has changed in the last 30 years. When Rhodes Scholar Denny Hansen graduated from Yale in 1957, Life magazine ran a feature on the college hero whose classmates joked would be President. But Hansen committed suicide in 1991. While charting the mysterious course of a life that had seemed full of limitless promise, Trillin's work also investigates the assumptions his generation inherited and their meaning in America today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Fascinating . . . A fine meditation on one life's aborted promise, the crippling burden of anticipated success, and the mysteries of the human heart." --Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This collection was on PW 's bestseller list for seven weeks. (Apr.)
Library Journal
In 1957 Denny Hansen had it all--a "dazzling'' smile, a new Yale degree, an appointment as a Rhodes scholar, friends who regarded him practically as an icon, and a boundless future in an era when the sky seemed the limit for bright graduates. In 1991 he became a modern Richard Cory, taking his own life. Trillin, his Yale classmate, tries to determine what went so terribly wrong. However, in his search, we necessarily see so much more of the troubled later years than of the golden years that we ultimately lose sight of the magnitude of the change in Hansen. Expect demand where Trillin's works are popular; also, the public is always morbidly interested in fallen stars. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/92.-- Jim Burns, Ottumwa, Ia.
Michael Dorris
Eloquent, heartfelt…an investigation worthy of Mr. Trillin's intelligence and acuity….the pages just almost turn themselves.
The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374529741
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 5/16/2005
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.61 (w) x 8.33 (h) x 1.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Calvin Trillin is the author of twenty books, including Family Man (FSG, 1998) and Messages from My Father (FSG, 1996). He writes a weekly column for Time and a weekly poem for The Nation. He lives in New York City.

Biography

As a religion reporter, Calvin Trillin showed himself as something of a Doubting Thomas.

He was working for Time in the 1960s, and he didn't much like his assigned beat. So, he turned to one of the standard tricks of a good reporter: He hedged. "I finally got out of that by prefacing everything with 'alleged,' " he told Publishers Weekly. "I'd write about 'the alleged parting of the Red Sea,' even 'the alleged Crucifixion,' and eventually they let me go."

Fans of Trillin's writing -- his snapshots of ordinary U.S. life for The New Yorker, his political poetry in the Nation, his search for the ideal meal with his wife good-naturedly in tow -- will recognize his style in this early exercise in subversion. He is warm, gentle, and human, but there can be a dash of mischievousness for taste. Even the unwelcome sight of a brussels sprout at a buffet provoked his ire. Turning to his wife, he said, "The English have a lot to answer for."

Humorist Mark Russell took note in the pages of The New York Times in 1987: "Mark Twain, Robert Benchley and [S. J.] Perelman are dead, but Calvin Trillin is right there with the post-funeral cocktail to assure us that life goes on."

Born in Kansas City but transplanted to the West Village of New York City, Trillin has kept in touch with his midwestern roots for much of his writing. A collection of articles from The New Yorker on so-called ordinary murders from around the country became the book Killings, called by The Wall Street Journal "one of the most low-key, dispassionate, matter-of-fact books on murder ever produced."

In its review, the Los Angeles Times said: "He may be The New Yorker's finest stylist, and his writing is quite different from the careful accretion of detail that characterizes much of the magazine's writing. Trillin omits as much as he possibly can; he leaves spaces for resonating, like a guitar string stopped and kept mute to sound the overtone from the next string down."

In Travels with Alice he writes of looking for hamburgers on the Champs Elysées in Paris. Even in a classic New York story, Tepper Isn't Going Out, he writes not of theater or restaurants or even a rent-controlled apartment equidistant between Zabar's and Central Park. Instead he seeks out deeper pleasures: finding the perfect parking space, and holding onto it.

Humor is a Trillin trademark. He began writing a humor column for The Nation in the late 1970s called Uncivil Liberties that became two book collections. In 1980, The New York Times chuckled gratefully at his first novel, writing that "the antics around the nameless news magazine in...Floater are as funny as The Front Page and as absurd as playground pranks."

In 1990, he began treating Nation readers to a new column, a weekly spot of verse on the political hijinks of the day, pieces with names like "If You Knew What Sununu." This, too, became a book, The Deadline Poet: My Life as a Doggerelist. He even shares insights into the creative process: "A fool is fine. A pompous fool's sublime. / It also helps if they have names that rhyme."

Trillin's résumé has a sense of elasticity: journalist, novelist, humorist, satirist, poet. But there is a commonality to his work: It's approachable. And The Washington Post's Jonathan Yardley points out that, for a journalist, this may be the toughest feat of all.

"Calvin Trillin is like an old shoe," he wrote in a 1998 review of Trillin's Family Man. "Whatever he may be writing about, he always makes you want to slip into it and get comfy. This may seem like a modest compliment, but it is a high one indeed. Few tricks are more difficult for the journalist to pull off than being consistently likable and engaging, making oneself and one's little world interesting and appealing to others."

Good To Know

Growing up in Kansas City, Calvin Marshall Trillin was known as Buddy.

The family name was originally Trilinsky.

He staged two one-man shows showcasing his humor in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Calvin Marshall Trillin (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 5, 1935
    2. Place of Birth:
      Kansas City, Missouri
    1. Education:
      B.A., Yale University, 1957

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2002

    A fascinating read

    This is one of the best books I have ever read. It reads like a detective story as Trillan tries to unravel what happened to a life that held so much promise only to end in Denny's tragic suicide. I heartily reccomend this book to everyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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