Messages from My Father

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Calvin Trillin clearly took after his father Abe, whose most pronounced characteristic during his lifetime seemed to be his stubbornness. However, while Calvin may have inherited some of Abe Trillin’s obstinacy, the writer also came by his vocation naturally. MESSAGES FROM MY FATHER details the elder Trillin’s love of language. Although he was known as a man of few words, he also delighted in collecting curses (his favorite was, “May you have an injury that is not covered by workman’s compensation”), in indulging in play-dumb midwestern humor (once asking a salesman at Tiffany’s if the famous jeweler had “anything to do with Cartier’s?” adding, “I’ve heard of Cartier’s”), and in naming (he called his wife’s gossipy bridge club the “Clique Adorables”).

In his business life, Abe Trillin evinced his literary bent in the short poems he appended to the menus he typed up daily during the period he owned a restaurant. For much of his life, however, Abe worked as a grocer. After emigrating in 1909 from somewhere “near Kiev” to the United States and landing improbably in Galveston, Texas, Abe’s family settled in St. Joseph, Missouri. When Abe moved on to Kansas City, he went into the grocery business. In time, he became the owner of five stores which, when he sold them, provided him with the capital to buy, at various points, a restaurant, a hotel, and some real estate. However, Abe Trillin never found himself in a congenial...

(The entire section is 402 words.)