The Lede: Dispatches from a Life in the Press

Random Feb. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9780593596449. $31. LIT
Renowned for his particular style of wry humor, journalist Trillin has had a six-decade career, including his work at the New Yorker, Time and The Nation. Here, in a collection of 42 pieces written between 1970 and 2021, Trillin engages readers through a veritable history of journalism that meanders through decades, subjects, and personalities. The pieces span journalistic controversies, including those about the handling of language and sexuality, to personalities such as Al Gore (who gets his own poem), to beloved journalist Edna Buchanan, whose famous lede “Gary Robinson died hungry” is one of Trillin’s favorites. A few of the pieces were also published in Trillin’s 2012 book Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff, but overall, the selection of works is solid and novel, and Trillin’s talent shines through. Of particular interest are “The Lede” (2021), “No Gossip in Russia” (1988), “Alternatives” (1978), “Out of Style” (1994), and “Back on the Bus” (2011). One downside is that the humor from some of the earlier pieces doesn’t translate well to 2024.
VERDICT Perfect for those interested in journalism and readers of the New Yorker. This work also offers older readers and Trillin’s longtime fans a chance to reminisce.
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