Why Questionstruck


Lot of people asked me why I put together Questionstruck: A Collection of Question-based Texts Derived from the Books of Calvin Trillin. That was the first question Robert Lescher, Trillin’s agent of forty-plus years, asked when I called to tell him that Keyhole Press wanted to publish this book that collects every interrogative from Trillin’s twenty-five books: “Why did you do this?”

I still don’t have a answer for this “why” question. So I turned to the text, to Questionstruck itself, the book of 3,883 questions, and I extracted all of the why-controlled questions. Still no answer to why, but presented here:

Why did you have to do that? Why else would Lao visit Hmong? Why don’t you just come right out and ask her? Why are you so certain? Why Dangerous? Why Dangerous? Why dangerous? Why did it disappear? Why can’t they be the same person? Why couldn’t whoever made the stone appear also make it disappear–knowing that a photograph would show that the stone had been here but not in a way that could be closely examined, or maybe even knowing that having it disappear would make it even more famous? Why? Why not let him get away with it? Why not just go ahead and float some bonds and try to get the land from Ronnie and start the theme park? Why was one of the state policemen transferred far from his home and the other one encouraged to retire? Why was he mad at me? Why don’t you pick on someone your own size? Why not think it over and repent? Why not think it over and repent?’ Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Why do birds sing so gay? Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Why do birds sing so gay? Why do they fall in love? Why don’t you let me try and make a living? Why not? Why don’t you people ever listen? Why does everybody think it’s Peoria? Why am I doing this? Why am I bouncing a balloon for the evening news? Why would anybody want to read about our old armchair? Why do I need you to teach me? Why can’t you find something good to say about him? Why are you talking this way? If the Devil doesn’t actually exist, why are the Reagan’s changing their address? Why start something? Why didn’t anybody tell me about this before? Why take a chance? Why eat nutria when you can get frozen chicken breasts cheap at Sam’s? Why wouldn’t they also cook better? Why? Why didn’t the authorities at Davis write to deny the existence of the Davis Conundrum? Why is that? Why don’t you have both? Why did I restrain myself? Why is it that reporters covering an election campaign write almost exclusively about who might win, even though we’re all going to know that the night of the election anyway? Why not? Why not? Why, exactly, are you telling me this? But why particularly me? Why are you parked here today? Why does a compulsive person spend a lot of time organizing his bolts and screws and nuts and nails by size when he knows perfectly well there are better ways to spend his time? While you’re down there, why don’t you pick up a pound of herring salad and a whitefish? Why else would he have given up that spot? Why would you want to bother a nice lady like that? Why is it that everyone who has ever written a poem about me finds it of such extraordinary interest that my name happens to rhyme with spaghetti? Why? If so, why? Why don’t we just repackage, not retool? Why would a pol so big steal sums so little? Why can’t you see that every reader prays you’ll stop this bunk about a hundred days? If not, why would he spend an hour every day training a single lock of hair to fall carelessly toward his boyish brow? So why does this make people nervous? Why would you cut it in half? Why should he lie about such a thing? Why? Why can’t I find a publisher who gives a royalty of 55 percent? Why don’t any of my friends want to chip in for my promotional budget? Why don’t I have a foundation to help me cheat my way onto the best-seller list? Why can’t somebody write my books for me and just leave me to collect the royalties in peace? Why would anybody want to go to the northeast corner of the woods? Why did we need all that schmultz? Why don’t you tell me which one you want translated most? Why don’t we just eat here at the motel? Why should Kentucky be maligned? Why didn’t you go first class? Why would the State Department choose me instead of one the people Alice persists in calling ‘grown-up food writers’? Why would Alice make a remark like that? Why would anyone want to get away from a city that has a thousand Chinese restaurants? Why else would we have seen six busloads of tourists go in there? Why, I should have asked myself, do dinner-table conversations at our house so often turn to the perils of gluttony? Why had Alice continued to preach the benefits of limiting our family to three meals a day even after I presented incontrovertible scientific evidence that entire herds of cattle owe their health to steady grazing? Why, in planning a trip to Sicily, would Alice seem so insistent on staying in towns that have world-renowned ruins, whether those towns are known for their pasta con sarde or not? Why don’t we just eat in the hotel? Why in the world would anybody do such a thing? Why are conversations among vendors of hot dogs at the Central Park Zoo conducted in Greek? Why would anyone want to be anything but polite about noodles? Why don’t we go to a Peking place for lunch? Why don’t you just sit yourself down on the floor over there and peel this pile of shrimp? Why didn’t you just tell him you got a better offer from the newspaper syndication people? Why did he keep assuring me that I’d find it easier to write every week than once every three weeks? Why did he keep discussing land opportunities in Florida with the waiter? Why are you doing this? Why is the floor of the Stock Exchange so much like a West Side bus stop? Why aren’t you giving him the chocolates? Why would the owner of a resort tell potential guests that what they might run into at his place is a bunch of yuppies? Why shouldn’t I be the chairman? Why don’t you people ever carry change? Why don’t we tell him about the farm problem? Why do I find myself missing the old well? Why are just some of the people on Wall Street arrested? Why assume that college freshmen are being literal if they happen to identify Baton Rouge as a continent very near Cambodia? Why would you need the pi function? Why is the woman fat? Why isn’t the horse fat? Why is the Penn State football team called the Nittany Lions? Why can’t you be interested in something like how the Georgetown Hoyas got their name? Why did I sack all those onions? Why don’t you take my place as leader of the Liberian freighter demonstration? Why did I involve myself in such an unpromising enterprise? Why does he talk so funny? Why should I attach any sinister significance to that fact? Why did I assume that a state legislator who was wearing a $200,000 wristwatch came by it through nefarious means? Charlie, why do you have to be such a klutz? Daddy, why did the Marines invade Cuba? Why has everything that tastes good been certified a killer? Why do you keep going on about soy waste? Why can’t any of those guys grow full beards? Why take a chance? Why would Ronald Reagan’s wife want to pretend she was somebody she wasn’t? Why don’t any of you have a first name? Why Are You Still Torturing Me? Why are you still torturing me? Why did he finish 214th (out of 310) in his graduating class at West Point? Why didn’t we win the war in Vietnam? Why was I assuming that the Chinatown kids turned out so much better than the Massachusetts kids simply because their food was so much better? Why should I be reminded that the plan I had devised to teach my daughters geography during the summer in Nova Scotia had never been put into effect? Why not? Why didn’t we have more children? Why should the two families like each other simply because the people getting married are of the same sex? Why was there no sound of a strong response from the backseat of our car? Why are they going back? But why are they going back? Why didn’t I bring it up before? Why would Abigail want to marry a stiff? Why should it end when the captive breakfast audience gets liberated? Why did they have to wait twenty years to tell us so? Why am I only learning this now, when it is too late? Why wasn’t he in law school? Why wasn’t he in California running for the state legislature? Why did Denny seem more or less parked when he was supposed to be out there getting on with it? Why didn’t you call? Why would the two go together? But why would you like it not beefier? Why Not Atlanta? Leonard, why are you telling me all of this? Why am I telling you all of this? Why would a bar in Washington Heights cash your check? Why couldn’t Rocco call him from home? Why shouldn’t she be all right? Why Flemish separatists? Why not? Why one hundred and thirteen? Why don’t we discuss it at lunch? Why would anyone question the stability of someone rational enough to avoid a place where people might shoot at him? Why is this man smiling? Why does this path seem trodden? And why should we have rushed in troops to help? Why don’t you write a column for The Nation? Why don’t you ever call one of the big-issue columnists with this kind of thing? And why does our guide look so much like an oil company lobbyist? Why is she wearing an Adolfo gown? Why don’t you ever write about the Scottsboro Boys? If novelists, why not editors? Why did he say you’re a dupe? If you’re literary, why does Mommy have to explain foreign movies to you? Why didn’t I see it before? Why wasn’t I asked to subscribe? Why do they go to more or less the same places? Why were you not meant to know? Why had the announcement been understandable? Why is he getting all excited just because somebody pronounced his silly state wrong? Then why did you say ‘silly state’? Why is he getting all excited just because somebody pronounced his proud and historically significant state wrong? Why, I have been asked, does The Nation choose to publish only every other week in July and August even though oppression of the downtrodden goes on every day of the year? Why do you think I’ve always taught you that if you’ve done something wrong you’re supposed to tell the truth and admit it? Well, why didn’t they? Why didn’t I think of this years ago? Why is it that everybody gets to see the mountains but me? Why do the English talk so funny? Why is it that Canadians, who are widely considered to be much nicer than Americans, have a two-dollar bill that is worth only $1.54? Why would he be interested in some sort of preemptive strike? Why in the world are you a Republican?