Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Reading. Trillin.

The dedication to Tepper Isn't Going Out simply reads: I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice. (Whenever I read those words I want to cry). Things I know about Alice Trillin: She died on September 11, 2001, of heart failure. She had undergone radiation treatment for cancer some twenty-five years before and it had damaged her heart permanently. She had "a weird predilection for limiting [their] family to three meals a day," a reputation as a fabulous cook, and a sense of humor. Most of all, she had the ability to make fun of her husband while making it clear that she adored him, and it was equally clear that the feeling was mutual.

In his writing - the columns for magazines, the books about food and travel - Trillin writes about himself and his wife (and their two daughters) so vividly that you feel that you know them. You want to know them. You wish that they lived next door, that the girl who never went to Chinatown without a bagel was your best friend, that her father would take you to Russ & Daughters for smoked fish, that her mother would invite you in for dinner and do something with "cheese-in-the-basket, strawberries and Grand Marnier" that might lead a lucky guest to ask if the Trillins would adopt him.

But the Alice of all those stories which made her sound like "a dietician in sensible shoes" was not the real Alice, who was beautiful and blonde and wore shoes "that looked like they cost about the amount of money required in some places to tide a family of four over for a year or two." The Alice of About Alice is the one in expensive shoes, the one who is wearing a pale turtleneck and a plaid skirt, the matching coat slung casually over her shoulders, holding her new husband's hand (it is their wedding day) in the photo on the back of the book jacket. She has dimples and gleaming blonde hair and a sort of beret (which matches her turtleneck) slouching, becomingly, tilted to the side of her head. The man holding her hand as they walk down the street towards the photographer, towards their life together (she is wearing beautiful pumps that seem to be made of some exotic leather), and he looks as though he cannot believe that this woman next to him is now his wife. It seems that for all those years they were married Calvin Trillin never quite lost that feeling of disbelief.

They may not have known her, writes Trillin, but they knew how I felt about her...I got a lot of letters like the one from a young woman in New York who wrote that she sometimes looked at her boyfriend and thought, "But will he love me like Calvin loves Alice?" But I think if I wrote to Mr. Trillin I would tell him that I could tell how much he loved his wife from his words, and that I hoped that, not that I would be loved as much as he loved Alice, but that I would love as much as he did. That I would meet someone who would tell me that I would never be as funny as I would the night we fell in love, that I would want to write for him as I have never written for anyone else before, not even myself.

But for now, this is for Alice, and Calvin.

Trillin, Calvin. About Alice. Random House, 2006. p. 6.

1 comment:

Juanita J. Sanchez said...

True romance. So beautiful, so rare.