Wednesday, November 23, 2016

RIP William Trevor

I was sad to read that the noted Irish author, William Trevor, has just died at the age of 88 in England, where he had lived since 1952. Although a wonderful novelist and playwright, he is best known for his absolutely incomparable short stories. I have long admired, marveled at, and enjoyed those stories, and somehow thought he would always keep writing them. He, along with V. S. Pritchett and Alice Munro, are the modern masters of the short story in English, as far as I (and many critics too!) am concerned. Trevor told the Guardian in 2009 that he “considered short stories the best vehicles for studying character” (according to the Associated Press story published in the San Francisco Chronicle on 11/22/16; some other material in my post is taken from that article, as well as some background and insights from Marisa Silver’s 11/23/16 New Yorker article and elsewhere). Most of all, he considered himself a storyteller, and a great one he was. He always thought of himself as a bit of an outsider, perhaps from moving often as a child, and from that stance observed people carefully, depicting the small movements and conversations of everyday life in an illuminating but never flashy way. His work felt quiet but revelatory. I remember that when I read his stories, they often started quietly and then sneaked up on me, and suddenly I was in awe of his insights into the human mind and motivations and behaviors. Trevor won many literary awards, including the prestigious Whitbread (three times), and was short-listed four times for the even more prestigious Booker Prize. He received three honorary titles in Britain, including a knighthood. I loved hearing that “he produced all of his stories on blue paper – a habit from his ad agency days – on a manual typewriter, followed by much revision.”
Site Meter