About Alice

About Alice

In Calvin Trillin’s antic tales of family life, she was portrayed as the wife who had “a weird predilection for limiting our family to three meals a day” and the mother who thought that if you didn’t go to every performance of your child’s school play, “the county would come and take the child.” Now, five years after her death, her husband offers this loving portrait of Alice Trillin off the page–his loving portrait of Alice Trillin off the page–an educator who was equally at home teaching at a university or a drug treatment center, a gifted writer, a stunningly beautiful and thoroughly engaged woman who, in the words of a friend, “managed to navigate the tricky waters between living a life you could be proud of and still delighting in the many things there are to take pleasure in.”

Though it deals with devastating loss, About Alice is also a love story, chronicling a romance that began at a Manhattan party when Calvin Trillin desperately tried to impress a young woman who “seemed to glow.”
“You have never again been as funny as you were that night,” Alice would say, twenty or thirty years later.
“You mean I peaked in December of 1963?”
“I’m afraid so.”

But he never quit trying to impress her. In his writing, she was sometimes his subject and always his muse. The dedication of the first book he published after her death read, “I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice.”

In that spirit, Calvin Trillin has, with About Alice, created a gift to the wife he adored and to his readers.


  • Hardcover: 78 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400066158
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066155
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
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  1. Calvin Trillin’s heartfelt, touching, and occasionally humorous tribute is an expanded essay about his affection for and appreciation of his late wife, Alice. She was a stunning blonde who turned heads whenever she entered a room, but she never coasted on her good looks. Alice’s integrity, character, marvelous sense of humor, unflagging energy, optimism, and down-to-earth personality made her stand out; she had a unique talent for reaching out to others and making her family, friends, and students feel valued and appreciated. Alice was a skilled listener who dispensed detailed advice, consolation, and genuine sympathy when appropriate; she had a gift for relating to people intimately without being sloppily sentimental. She lent a helping hand to “anyone she loved, or liked, or knew, or didn’t quite know but knew someone who did, or didn’t know from a hole in the wall,” said Nora Ephron. Alice wrote letters–what a lost art letter-writing is!–and her letters were works of art.

    Trillin married Alice in 1965 and they enjoyed over thirty-five years together until her death on September 11, 2001. At their first meeting in 1963, Calvin was impressed by Alice’s radiance. He never stopped trying to impress his wife and she never failed to impress him. Throughout her career, marriage, and even during her courageous battle with lung cancer and later, heart disease, Alice demonstrated that she was not just a pretty face. She was a enormously gifted, intelligent, and creative woman who was gave of herself unstintingly. She taught college kids, drug addicts in rehab, and prisoners in Sing Sing.Read more ›

  2. Putting down Calvin Trillin’s ‘About Alice’ one word came to mind: ‘Beautiful’. Writing with deep affection that readers will easily connect to, the author demonstrates through action and his writing the unlimitedness of love and the human spirit. I truly enjoyed this book, written by a provocative author whose writing has influenced many of us.

  3. This brief, beautiful book is a tribute to Alice Trillin, the author’s wife, who died in New York City after a long battle with cancer on September 11, 2001. In this moving series of essays about Alice’s character and person, Calvin Trillin never notes the coincidence of her death with the destruction of the World Trade Center, perhaps understandably reluctant to compare the two events. In fact, he avoids anything mawkish or overly sentimental and makes no overt plays for the reader’s sympathy, preferring to let his fond illumination of Alice’s life speak for itself.

    Trillin has been a prolific writer for a lifetime, and many of his readers already felt a kinship with the woman he admits he sometimes portrayed as a “dietician in sensible shoes.” Nobody has skewered family life and travails (traveling, eating, parenting) with as much gentle wit as he has, and given what he calls his “sitcom view” of their life, it’s only natural that readers may have a skewed concept of the woman he married in the late 1960s and raised two daughters with. So many of his light, funny articles have featured her as straight man — a kind of George Burns to his Gracie Allen.

    In this book, Trillin fleshes out this adored woman, presenting Alice Stewart Trillin as a teacher, writer, activist and lecturer in her own right. She was straightforward in her views and not afraid to voice her opinion, regardless of the company. “If we’d had the misfortune to live in a milieu that called on me to work my way up in a corporation and on Alice to be the supportive and diplomatic and perfectly behaved corporate wife, I sometimes told her, I would never have emerged from middle management.Read more ›

  4. “About Alice” is Calvin Trillin’s love song to Alice, his wife who died far too soon in 2001. Reading Trillin’s evocative prose tonight brought laughter and tears. How I wished I had known Alice…

  5. Read this book and be a voyeur of a marriage that sparkled with wit and love. One of the most beautiful tributes to a wife that has ever been written, told in a style that is smart, funny and provacative. Who better to write this story than the incomparable Calvin Trillan who has a plain spoken and ironic style.

  6. Calvin Trillin is one of our great humorists, raconteurs, literary stylists, and bon vivants. This book isn’t funny. It’s not witty nor gourmandizing. It’s pithy and delicate and understated.

    Trillin loved his wife. You will too.

  7. The New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin has often written about his wife, Alice. While I haven’t read any of his previous works, I think he must have outdone himself in About Alice. About Alice is moving, it is elegant, but unfortunately, at 96 pages, it is also very short.

    About Alice is part memoir, part tribute and all love story. Trillin met his future wife at a party and instantly fell in love. Friends claimed that they were George Burns and Gracie Allen, with Alice playing George. These two opposites proved to be the perfect compliment. Not only was Alice a talented writer as well, but also a dedicated teacher. Their happiness was threatened in 1976 when Alice was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 38 and given only two years to live. Amazingly, she survived another 25 years before succumbing to heart disease–her heart being damaged by the radiation treatment that saved her life years before.

    It is obvious how much of a hole Alice’s death has left in Trillin’s life. Not only was she his wife, but he also depended on her to proofread, edit, and critique his many works. In the dedication of the first book published after her death, Trillin writes “I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice.” Many women would be envious to have a husband who could write so eloquently about his love for his wife.

    After reading About Alice, I’m impressed enough with both Trillin’s writing and Alice that I plan to read some of his other works including Travels with Alice, and Alice, Let’s Eat.

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