Monday, December 5, 2011

Calvin Trillin (December 5, 1935)

Calvin Trillin does some of the funniest food writing I've ever encountered, while still really talking about food. Although he refers to his Jewish background from time to time, I've never thought about him as a particularly Jewish writer. Like me, he's from the Midwest, although unlike me, he's a very-long-term resident of New York and his writing is quite New York-centered, especially when he's reminding the New Yorkers that the rest of the country exists. I loved his books about his wife Alice and the way she tried to get him not to eat 12 meals a day, or however many it was.

An interviewer from Forward once asked him "Would you say yours is a Jewish sense of humor?"

Trillin answered: "All of me is Jewish. You get a lot of theories about Jews deflecting pain through humor. I don’t know about that. I think there is sort of an irony built into the faith. Even in the Talmud where they argue 'maybe' and 'but on the other hand,' that I always found funny."

In the same interview, he described how he discovered he could be funny: "We were studying that section of the Bible where it says, 'If I forget thee o Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning and let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.' I was kind of a shy little boy. I think I was in the sixth grade, and I suddenly got up and said, 'If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning,' and I had my right hand dangling by my side. And then I said, 'Wet my tongue kweave to duh woof of my mouf.' That won me over to comedy, and, if you can have an epiphany in a non-Christian school, I had an epiphany."

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