cover image Travels with Alice

Travels with Alice

Calvin Trillin. Ticknor & Fields, $18.45 (195pp) ISBN 978-0-89919-910-8

Syndicated humor columnist, author ( If You Can't Say Something Nice ) and New Yorker writer Trillin publicly refers to his wife Alice as the principessa when they travel: ``I found it improved the service in hotels.'' With Alice and daughters Abigail and Sarah, he here roams through France, Italy, Spain and the Caribbean, his selective eye and broad interests picking up on whatever intrigues him. In southern France, for instance, he pursues the vanishing arcade game of babyfoot and develops an obsession with the provincial event called taureaux piscine , a form of bullfighting requiring a small plastic swimming pool. In a mildly curmudgeonly tone, Trillin reveals a skeptic's attitude toward the French language and manners, though he's willing to forgive much of a country that gave the world the French fry. Food is never far from his thoughts, whether it leads him to farmers' markets in Provence, to sampling ethnic specialties on a stroll through lower Manhattan, or taste-testing the latest fast-food offerings in Paris. If he were a stand-up comedian, these essays would be called routines; whatever one calls them, they're sure to raise a smile. The peripatetic, insatiably curious Trillin is invariably entertaining. (Oct.)