Too Soon to Tell


Too Soon To Tell reveals Trillin at his barbed and irrepressible best. His short takes send us back to contemporary life refreshed and delighted.

Trillin has come to be known as a writer with something witty to say about any topic that crosses his desk. This collection of his topical essays reveals Trillen at his barbed and irrepressible best.

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Too Soon To Tell reveals Trillin at his barbed and irrepressible best. His short takes send us back to contemporary life refreshed and delighted.

Trillin has come to be known as a writer with something witty to say about any topic that crosses his desk. This collection of his topical essays reveals Trillen at his barbed and irrepressible best.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This collection of amiable satire draws from both Trillin's syndicated column and his writings for the New Yorker. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Every few years, Trillin gathers a bunch of his syndicated columns on anything and everything and converts them into a book. This is his fifth such collection. It is difficult to find anything new or particularly illuminating to say about Trillin. In this book, readers will discover precisely what they would expect from past acquaintance: wit, spiced with a tang of tolerant cynicism; a chuckly sort of humor rather than a guffawing one; a purged prose in which the inessential is resolutely excluded; and little in the way of subject matter to which he will not give at least a flying salute. A sturdy package job that makes for good reading. Recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/95.]-A.J. Anderson, GSLIS, Simmons Coll., Boston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374529864
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 308
  • Sales rank: 1,228,956
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.80 (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.


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

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Family Business 9
A New Arrival 12
Return of the Rubes 15
Worms Turning 18
Talk About Ugly! 21
Special Dish 24
Agents, Agents Everywhere 27
Time and Tide 30
Iowa on My Mind 33
Believable History 36
Sound Policy 39
Stargazing 42
Adventures in the Book Game 45
The Alice Tax 48
Check Him Out 51
Women, Women 54
Lip-Synching 57
Truth Is Stranger 60
A Traditional Family 63
Gecko Redux 66
Dog-Bark Duet 69
Keeping Up with Geography 72
Frog Theories 75
Mass Exit 78
Rock Threat Subsides 81
Naming the German Baby 84
The Past and the Future 87
Go to Your Room 90
International Chigger Alert 93
Chinese Golf 96
Please Stop 99
Errands 102
Polite Society 105
Who Was First? 108
I'm O.K., I'm Not O.K. 111
Planted Questions 114
Counting My Blessings 117
Too Old 120
Speak Softly 123
Orlando When It Sizzles 126
A Visit from Jean-Michel 129
Blues Blues 132
Don't Mention It 135
Bad Language 138
Searching for the Elite 141
Merger 144
Women and Clubs 147
Folktale, for Real 150
The Right to Bear Chain Saws 153
New Worries 156
Broken English 159
Taxing the Queen 162
Networking for Fun and Profit 165
Just Plain Bill 168
Smoking Incorrectly 171
Presidential Symbols 174
Seat Belts for Dogs 177
Capital Goobers 180
Tabloid in the Tabloids 183
Contemplating the Zoo 186
Steven the Turtle 189
Tough Enough 192
Hurt Feelings 195
In Defense of Sleeping 198
Doubly Generous 201
Alas, Poor Willy 204
Little-Known Facts 207
New Professor 210
The Hot Stuff Cure 213
Unmasked 216
A Christmas Shopping Tale 219
Pacific Insults 222
Networkers Triumphant 225
Exchanging Information 228
Unplugged 231
Out of Style 234
Dangerous Machines 237
Movie Reality 240
Din! Din! Din! 243
Beware of Pickpockets 246
Eye of the Beholder 249
Brutal Attack on Barney 252
Nerds, Unvanished 255
Hazardous Dining 258
Embarrassment of Riches 261
Questions about Prince Charles 264
Jeff Again 267
The Piping Plover 270
So, Nu, Dr. Freud 273
Hat Trick 276
Sign Writing 279
Video Talk 282
What's the Good Word? 285
Afterword 289
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