Picks and Pans Review: If You Can't Say Something Nice

UPDATED 11/02/1987 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/02/1987 at 01:00 AM EST

by Calvin Trillin

It's impossible not to admire any man who has tried to make a citizen's arrest of someone for performing mime in public. As this collection of syndicated columns proves, ladies and gentlemen, Trillin is a curmudgeon's curmudgeon. Every good adjective—funny, witty, droll, terrific, wonderful, trenchant, wise—has probably already been hurled at Trillin. But how else to describe a man who in "The Motto-Makers Art" came up with "A Long Way Across" as the appropriate tag for Nebraska license plates or "Never Been Indicted" as the slogan for a Buffalo politician's campaign. When dealing with places a bit more far flung than Nebraska, for instance Iran and Iraq, Trillin postulates, "I'm convinced that a lot of people get Iran and Iraq mixed up, so they don't know who to root for. It's as if both teams were wearing red jerseys." This is not to say that every piece in Trillin's grab bag of political and social commentary is positively 100 percent sterling. Some, notably pieces about the salary woes of former Ford Motor Company chairman Philip Caldwell and the travails at CBS, are showing their age at this point. But why pick nits? We're talking about the man who in "Diseases of the Mighty" writes that "the talk shows are stuffed full of sufferers who have regained their health—congressmen who suffered through a serious spell of boozing and skirtchasing, White House aides who were stricken cruelly with overweening ambition, movie stars and baseball players who came down with acute cases of wanting to trash hotel rooms while under the influence of recreational drugs. Most of them have found God, or at least a publisher." Mr. Trillin, consider this a rave. (Ticknor & Fields, $16.95)

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