Calvin Trillin is famed as a humorist, food writer and memoir writer.
Trillin's dazzling collection "The Lede: Dispatches From a Life in the Press" displays that he's also one of our best writers on American journalism.
Ranging from profiles, essays and humorous "casuals" from the New Yorker to examples of his satirical political poetry for the Nation magazine, "The Lede" gives a multi-sided portrait of the history of American journalism during Trillin's more than 60-year career.
In eulogies for once famous journalists Russell Baker, Molly Ivins, John Gregory Dunne, Morley Safer, Murray Kempton and others, Trillin shows why he's often chosen to speak at funerals.
Trillin gives warm, affectionate portraits of his subjects, describing their personal characteristics and foibles with a light touch.
In his famous New Yorker profiles of the relentless Miami crime reporter Edna Buchanan and flamboyant New York Times reporter R.W. "Johnny" Apple Jr., Trillin recalls a vanished era of print newspaper dominance.
Buchanan, who won a Pulitzer Prize at the Herald before leaving to write mystery novels, is presented as a model of old-style shoe-leather reporting. Trillin's profile gave Buchanan national prominence, as she was revered at newsrooms across the country.
Apple, who died in 2006, was nationally known for his gargantuan appetite, outrageous personality and brilliant writing on subjects from food, wine and travel to international politics.
At first receiving notoriety from Timothy Crouse's portrait of him in "The Boys on the Bus," Apple was a familiar presence on The Times' front page for years.
As Trillin notes, Apple had a flair for quickly writing "Q-heads," analytical pieces on politics, the economy and international affairs. In one of his last pieces of the type, Apple predicted that George W. Bush's Iraq War would turn into a quagmire. After drawing intense criticism for this view based on the Vietnam War, Apple was proven correct.
Trillin, who began his career reporting on the civil rights movement for Time magazine, closes the book with a classic of American journalism, "Back on the Bus," which looks back at his experience traveling across the South from the fall of 1960 through the fall of 1961.
Violent white lawmen, courageous civil rights workers and valiant reporters like The New York Times' Claude Sitton come alive in the piece. The centerpiece is Trillin's recollection of traveling with freedom riders on a bus from Alabama to Jackson, Miss.
Trillin reveals himself as one of the era's bravest reporters.