Sunday, February 04, 2007

Treats from Trillin, and not food

Looking at the local library's computer index about a week ago, I typed in Calvin Trillin thinking that I might find one of his books of essays about travel and food that I had not read, or read so long ago that I could read it again. Doing so I noticed that he had written more than that. I had read his recent essay "About Alice", now in book form, several months ago and found it to be compelling and inspiring. So why not try more. On the shelves I found two; "Tepper Isn't Going Out" and "Remembering Denny".

"Tepper Isn't Going Out" is a short novel that led to a couple of very pleasant round trip commutes on the LIRR. Probably novella is the right word to describe it, but I don't recall ever using that word myself. It's an amusing New York story that doesn't strive for too much but is perceptive in many ways. The main character is normal and understated with the exception of one quirk--he likes to spend time every day sitting, legally, in coveted Manhattan parking spaces and reading the newspaper. To say more would be like one of those Amazon reviewers that seem to take great pride in pretty much telling the story, so I won't.

"Remembering Denny" is an investigative memoir about a college classmate in the '50s who was seemingly the shining star of his class. Over time "Denny" lost contact with, or avoided contact with, most of his admiring classmates and killed himself in the early '90s. I know that doesn't sound like a book to go out and grab right away, and there are of course disturbing aspects. It is, however, incredibly well done or as a review excerpt on the back cover says "a superb portrait of an individual, a group, and a vanished sensibility".

It was just good fortune to have chosen to read both in the same week. One was light, one was not, combined just right.

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