Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


George W.S. Trow, 1943-2006

Filed under: In Memoriam   Tagged: ,

Sad news. Here’s the New York Times obituary. The New Yorker website has also put up an excerpt from Trow’s classic 1980 essay “Within the Context of No-Context.”


It is sad that Trow seems to have been so scarred by seventies television—perhaps Three’s Company, Charlie’s Angles, maybe even the Brady Bunch—that he was too jaundiced to see the creative revolution that started with Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere and blossomed into Deadwood and The Sopranos. And as for history—many lives are enriched by the scope of programming on The History Channel alone. One would hope that people pursue an idea or a subject area they may first encounter through that low-barrier medium in their living room, to learn more about it (which will improve their dinner conversation).

Steed and I dress for dinner all the time. If I had known Trow thought the convention had gone with the wind—we would have had him over. Resquiescat in pacem.

I first started reading George Trow’s pieces when I was in college in the late 1970s. So taken was I with his funny little stories—and the later, longer pieces, like “Within the Context …”—that I started corresponding with him ca. 1980.

In all, our correspondence spanned nearly 15 years. Sometimes we would exchange several letters a year, then several years would pass before we would start again. I thought that I wanted to be “a writer,” but George probably could tell by the quality of our exchanges, and perhaps what he also sensed from what I said, that this was not to be. I ended up going to law school, which I think was fine with him, and working in politics in Washington (where I remain today).

For awhile, I contemplated going to divinity school, and we exchanged a number of letters on that point. Trow talked to me a good bit about his local pastor and what he thought it meant to live a “religious life.”

Once when he came to Washington, he gave me call at home. I had been at classes, so when I returned his call he suggested that we get together. We never did, and our correspondence lagged after that. However, he spoke at a program at the Library of Congress in 1989 or 1990 (along with Veronica Geng, maybe? I can’t remember). I attended and he was very funny. I shook his hand, but didn’t formally introduce myself, since it seemed like it would be strange (for whatever reason).

Every few years I get the bug to see what he might be doing—or what others might be saying about him—and use Google and Lexis to see what I’ve missed. Not too much, sadly, in recent years.

I had thought several times about sending him a letter, just to see what he’s up to. Of course I never did—and I guess it wouldn’t have been delivered, since the last known address I had was in Germantown, NY.

He was an interesting, engaging person, and I’m saddened not just by his passing, but the circumstances of his last few years. I wish I had stayed in touch with him.

there is one thing about Trow that noone seems to mention, and that was a deep, natural, engaging part of his oeurve was that it was FUNNY! don’t keep giving us all this saddened, morose blabber about how miserable he was, and how much he bummed people out! i had been thinking of him, recently,and about why his work hadn’t appeared in the The New Yorker for so damn long: finding out that he had a run-in with Tina Brown over something that might seem to some as trivial (grossing out at the thought of ANYTHING associated with that nobody Rosanne Barr), really, i must regretfully admit, BUMMED ME OUT!….ahem.

i just hope to God that his death wasn’t caused by suicide….wouldn’t be surprised if it was, but he was so terrifically valuable, that to think that he might have taken his own life is tragic….to me, anyway.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree