About Alice

by Calvin Trillin

Paper Book, 2006




New York : Random House, c2006.


A remarkably moving and memorable tribute to Alice Trillin, who figured prominently and indelibly in Calvin Trillin's books, and in his life. Alice was a beautiful, brilliant, and beloved wife. She died all too soon, coincidentally on 9/11. Since then, Calvin Trillin has been working on a tribute. It was finally published in The New Yorker in March, and immediately became one of the most talked about pieces in recent years. Calvin then expanded the article into this persuasive and poignant portrait, which is not about grief, but rather a celebration of a remarkably rewarding and remunerative life. It has left listeners in tears, unable, for a while, to shake the experience from the mind. Because - beyond anything else - this is truly a love story, something all too rare today.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member thejazzmonger
What a beautiful, readable, funny, emotional, touching book. I always loved Calvin Trillin. Over the years, he never ever wore thin, writing about family, growing up, food and the quirks of society. Always, ALWAYS, with humor.

About Alice has all those elements but it is, at heart, a profound love story. He is remarkably open and lucid about all the ways that he loved Alice. Without ever being grim, or maudlin, despite the fact that he lost Alice to a persistent cancer, he shares, in a very forthright way, what a delightful wife, mother, friend & intellect was Alice.

One of my favorite parts is when he talks about what it is like to be with an extremely attractive woman, to watch the way other men react to her. I have plenty of personal experience with this and he helped me see things that I "knew" but had never been able to articulate.

Any man interested in really knowing about love ought take this book to heart.
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LibraryThing member pw0327
I have never been in true, deep love. And I suppose what Trillin had with his wife Alice is a glimpse, a small glimpse of true, deep love. Art least I hope it is. In Calvin Trillin's inimitable hand, his life with and his love for Alice shines through the pages brilliantly. He described Alice early on aas having a glow about her, her feelings for her also has a glow about it too.

The book isn't very long. It clocks in at a mere 78 pages but he said all he had to say in that period. The book is in kind of a free form format, where Trillin goes into how they met, how they came to be married and what their lives were like in the early days. He also plays amateur psychologist and tries to analyze Alice's personality via her father's business failings etc. But he also skips around raising specifics about Alice, her deeds, her love of her kids, and her personality. It is at once touching and warm. It makes me yearn for a love like this between two people who have the intelligence and warmth to realize that this relationship of theirs is uncommon and to appreciate each other as seemingly no other has before.
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LibraryThing member harveywals
Such a disappointment. CT's love for his wife comes through clearly - so why did he focus so relentlessly on her physical good looks as her distinguishing characteristic?
LibraryThing member schusm
Beautiful essays about Calvin's wonderful wife, Alice who died at the age of 63, after her long struggle (although she wouldn't have described it that way). Written with humor and grace, never overly maudlin, Alice comes alive on these pages. Lovely.
LibraryThing member mplreference
This is a delightful book. Reading about Alice gives me something to strive for as a person. I thought it might be depressing, but it's not at all. It's a lovely story about an amazing woman.
LibraryThing member twryan72
I loved this because it was a long and beautiful love letter to his wife. Gives you faith in marriage!
LibraryThing member Jenners26
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Brief Summary: Trillin's wife Alice made frequent appearances in his writing, and it was obvious he loved her fully and deeply. This little book, written five years after her death from cancer, chronicles their love story, paints a portrait of a talented and generous woman, and pays tribute to the woman of whom Trillin wrote: "I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice."
Brief Thoughts: Touching and often amusing (as Trillin often is), this book is a lovely tribute to a special woman and a tender look at a strong marriage between soul mates. If only all of us could be so lucky to be loved and adored like Alice obviously was.
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LibraryThing member Suso711
Every woman should be blessed with a man who is able - and willing - to write such a loving, poignant tribute to her. Trillin's love for Alice shines through every page. I think it says less about Alice than it does about him. He says he was lucky to have her. I say she was lucky to have him!
LibraryThing member phyllis01
A touching remembrance of Trillin's wife. Trillin's clear, distinct voice brings Alice and the geat partnership they shared to life. It's a slim little book, readable in a few hours, that will stay with you for a long time.
LibraryThing member realbigcat
A charming sweet tribute by Calvin Trillin about his wife Alice. I had not read much by Trillin but apparently Alice was the subject or part of many of his articles. What makes this book nice is that it portrays Alice as a person you would love to have as a friend. She has the perfect blend of amazingly down to earth qualities. Unfortunately, as seems to happen to the nicest people the evil of cancer hit her. And as you would expect she met it head on. It's no doubt that Trillian loved his wife dearly. It's nice to read a tribute about someone other than a famous actor, celebrity or politician. The book is short but well worth the read and it will leave you feeling better for having read it.… (more)
LibraryThing member SamTekoa
Mr. Trillin writes a small powerful book about a beautiful woman, his wife. She was intelligent, kind, helpful, ernest, loving - so many great qualities. They had 25 years together before she died. She was a Welsley grad and close to hostile to religion. For me that made me sad for her. My faith and relationships with others who participate in public religious life is only one small way to say thank you to God for this wonderful life, which includes people like Alice. I hope her optimism will prove more true than she realized.… (more)
LibraryThing member burnit99
Calvin Trillin's memoir for his beloved wife, Alice. A slim little book, but moving, loving and humorous, it portrays a woman of strong personality and compassion who was never boring or bored with life. He writes in this book that he always wrote his books for her; if he could impress her (as he never stopped striving for), he had it made. After reading this memoir, I too was impressed. She must have been quite a woman to know.… (more)
LibraryThing member Marliesd
Sad, funny, touching--I loved this. I listened to it on CD, read by the author.
LibraryThing member adamallen
About Alice is a very touching (and very brief) book by Calvin Trillin on the life, personality, and more aptly put - spirit - of his deceased wife Alice. Apparently Alice has been the subject of several of Mr. Trillin's works and his loyal readers have gotten to know her quite well over the years. Personally, I picked up About Alice so that I could get a glimpse into the grieving and the love of the author for his wife. While that may sound a bit macabre, or conversely, even a bit mushy, I've always found that I enjoy movies, books, music, and art most when I'm moved by them. I want goose pimples, a strong laugh, heart-wrenching, and a fear of the dark. I want to be affected. While I also read to learn, I want my non-educational reading to allow me some escapism. About Alice delivered.

**SPOILER ALERT (Highlight)**

Alice is described in light detail and across the spectrum of their marriage. Calvin exposes some of Alice's flaws but of course, he focuses on her many positive traits. There was one characteristic that really struck a chord for me - Alice was passionate.

She was quick to bring up a topic in which she held a firm belief if given the opportunity. She liked to engage in friendly debate regardless of the location or the stature of the person with whom she was conversing. She showed passion for her beliefs in this regard. She also showed passion for her family and friends. As Trillin puts it, "When it came to trying to decide which theories of child-rearing were highly beneficial and which were absolutely ruinous to the future of your child - a subject of considerable discussion among some parents we knew - we agreed on a simple notion: your children are either the center of your life or they're not, and the rest is commentary."

My favorite quote from the book was:
"At camp, Alice had a tendency to gravitate toward the child who needed the most help, and L. was one of those. 'Last summer, the camper I got closest to, L., was a magical child who was severly disabled,' Alice wrote. 'She had two genetic diseases, one which kept her from growing and one which kept her from digesting any food. She had to be fed through at tube at night and she had so much difficulty walking that I drove her around in a golf cart a lot. We both liked that. One day, when we were plaing duck-duck-goose, I was sitting behind her and she asked me to hold her mail for her while she took her turn to be chased around the circle. It took her a while to make the circuit and I had time to see that on top of the pile was a note from her mom. Then I did something truly awful, which I'm reluctant now to reveal. I decided to read the note. I simply had to know what this child's parents could have done to make her so spectacular, to make her the most optimistic, most enthusiastic, most hopeful human being I had ever encountered. I snuck a quick look at the note, and my eyes fell onto this sentence: 'If God had given us all of the children in the world to choose from, L., we would only have chosen you.' Before L. got back to her place in the circle, I showed the note to Bud, who was sitting next to me. 'Quick. Read this,' I whispered. 'It's the secret of life.'"

I think that quote sums up Alice quite well.

***** END OF SPOILERS *****

With regards to Mr. Trillin himself, I commend him on this lovely little piece of work. My only deduction in the rating was due to the brevity of the book. I wanted more. Perhaps that's my shortcoming having not read his other Alice works. Nonetheless, it's a book that should be handed to all couples before they get married with a note in it that states - "This is what love really looks like. Make it your goal in life to get here."

When compared with many other friends, family, and acquaintances, I would suggest (and this has been suggested by others) that my wife and I have a very special relationship. I believe it is similar in many ways, albeit shorter in duration, to the Trillin's marriage. This book was a great reminder of how fortunate I have been in this regard.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member gwendolyndawson
A touching in memorium to the author's wife, who recently died of lung cancer. The couple's relationship is tenderly depicted, but I found myself not liking Alice all that much. She is definitely a complex person, but she also seems a bit superficial and showy at times.
LibraryThing member satyridae
I wasn't sure how Trillin's tribute to his beloved late wife Alice would be. I listened to the unabridged audio, read by Trillin. It was, in a word, extraordinary. There's something magical about writers who can distill their pain into words which give if not meaning then explication to the exigencies of grief. Brief, bereft and brave, this little gem lingers.… (more)
LibraryThing member auntieknickers
Calvin Trillin always writes well, but this book is one of his very best, as well it should be. It is his tribute to his late wife, and will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.
LibraryThing member 2wonderY
Read by the author and made my eyes brim with tears. I'd like to read the print version as well, as there are parts to linger over. The audio was brief and sweet, on one disc.
LibraryThing member KristySP
Honest, thoughtful, sad. I listened the audio book which was read by the author.
LibraryThing member bostonian71
Funny, honest, and heartbreaking tribute from one of my favorite writers to his late wife. Alice Trillin starred in many of Calvin's essays about food and family, but this book reveals much about her personal and professional background I didn't know, and provides a fuller portrait of her intelligent, thoughtful character. Alas, this book is too short, but at least I know now to look for articles and books written by Alice, and I may revisit Calvin's pieces about her and his daughters as well.… (more)
LibraryThing member lonepalm
Part memoir, part tribute, but too short...: 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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LibraryThing member purlewe
Calvin Trillin narrates his own book about his wife. About their life together and her death. Trillin's turn of phrase is more than just witty and insightful, by hearing him read you realize that you are listening to the family jargon. The shorthand that he and Alice have had for years. Their lives are so intertwined that you realize why so many people told him when Alice died that they felt like they knew her.

This is a slim volume. The Audiobook was only 1hr 17mins long. A quick read.
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LibraryThing member TheBookJunky
"We are so lucky."
This is a heartwarming paean of love and gratitude to his wife, who had died five years earlier.
It's not sad or depressing, it is an uplifting and inspirational celebration of her as wife, mother, and very much as her own wonderful self.
Count your blessings and enjoy everything, I think that's the message.
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LibraryThing member christinejoseph
memoir of his wife (short) her ideas thoughts Touching

Now, five years after her death, her husband offers this 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.”… (more)
LibraryThing member nyiper
All good----Alice knew what she was about and Calvin did too, and loved her all the more.


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