Picks and Pans Review: Enough's Enough
There are certain things reviewers feel compelled to harrumph about when critiquing a book of essays. They feel duty-bound to say the collection seems padded, that it's uneven, that some pieces are dated, some are a bit self-indulgent or slight. Okay, so the pieces in this collection on ex-House Speaker Jim Wright's royalty arrangements and the John Tower confirmation hearings seem dated, Trillin touting his skill at packing a car for vacation is self-indulgent, his ruminations on jeans are on the slight side.
The fact remains that Trillin may be the funniest columnist in America—bemused, amused, wry and right on the mark. Little escapes Trillin's notice, including the high school girl who sued when a prom date reneged on the deal, the Canadian family who accumulates only three bags of garbage per year (he dubs them the Retentives), and politicians who have recently left office.
"Ronald and Nancy Reagan will now be living in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles, at what used to be 666 St. Cloud Drive," begins one of the book's best pieces. "I read in the newspaper that the Reagans—who, as we all know, are just a tiny bit superstitious—arranged to have the address changed because in the Bible 666 is the number of the Devil. So their house's new address will be 668 St. Cloud Drive. That's all okay, except now where's the Devil supposed to live?"
Trillin has a lot of theories about a lot of things—a good thing for the reader. He theorizes, for example, that "there is only one fruitcake and that this fruitcake is simply sent on from year to year." He also theorizes that the breakup of Princess Anne's marriage has to do with the fact that husband Mark Phillips has never progressed beyond the rank of captain.
When Trillin isn't theorizing, he is worrying. He worries, for example, about a splinter of knowledge he picked up from Liz Smith's column: They don't have gossip in Russia. "It made me realize that there are 262 million Russians who don't know the first thing about Elizabeth Taylor.... I could see them at the tractor factory...I could see them at the market...I could see them settling down to read Pravda.... All that time, they're wondering about Elizabeth Taylor. 'What's with Liz?' they say to one another. 'Is she keeping her weight down? Who's she married to these days? What ever happened to Eddie Fisher?' " So much for enough being enough. (Ticknor & Fields, $19.95)