cover image Too Soon to Tell

Too Soon to Tell

Calvin Trillin. Farrar Straus Giroux, $18 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-374-27846-5

In this collection of some 90 syndicated columns written in the past four years, the reliably amusing Trillin mixes whimsical fluff with sly stilettos. In the whimsy department are essays on monkfish and high tides, courtesy of his Nova Scotia summers, as well as the ``grandchildren gap'' faced by parents of professionals and the prospect of the Queen being audited. Most of those essays go down easy enough, but Trillin also takes on bigger targets. The lip-synch shame of the Milli Vanilli duo, who were exposed as not having done the singing on their albums, prompts him to muse on the lack of scandal accorded celebrity authors whose books are ghostwritten. News that an East German spy waited tables at the West German Senate suggests spymasters confounded by Ronald Reagan's airy anecdotes, which they'd taped expecting to learn secret information. And, noting that some companies give campaign contributions to both political parties, he proposes a new question for a national high school civics exam: ``Explain this practice without using the word `bribery.'"" This collection shows Trillin's ephemera to be delightfully durable. (June)