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Selected Stories Hardcover – November 4, 2010
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*Starred Review* Trevor’s four most recent short story collections—After Rain (1996), The Hill Bachelors (2000), A Bit on the Side (2004), and Cheating at Canasta (2007)—merge all their pages into this deep reservoir into which avid fiction readers will dip repeatedly. Whether a story found in this magnificent accumulation is new to the reader or familiar, Trevor’s technical skills—for instance, abrupt time shifts that are seamless and add rich layering to both plot and characterization, and pinpoint-perfect word choice resonant as a subtle but effective spice—can be readily recognized by readers with an eye to fiction construction; but on the other hand, these skills will be unconsciously gathered by readers unconcerned with technical analysis. In this master storyteller’s hands, rural Ireland becomes the cosmos in which every one of us feels at home. The unfortunate ending of a friendship, the pain of a wife’s discovery of her husband’s affair, a husband’s sacrifice of his affair so his mistress won’t be regarded as just someone’s “bit on the side”—these specific situations assemble under the book’s umbrella theme of ordinary life as undulating waves of pleasures and crises. High-Demand Backstory: Irishman Trevor probably won’t be making any author tours in this country, but it is very likely his new book will be a cover review of the New York Times Book Review and will certainly be reviewed—and positively if not enthusiastically—everyplace else as well. --Brad Hooper
About the Author
William Trevor is the author of twenty-nine books, including Felicia’s Journey, which won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and was made into a motion picture. In 1996 he was the recipient of the Lannan Award for Fiction. In 2001, he won the Irish Times Literature Prize for fiction. Two of his books were chosen by The New York Times as best books of the year, and his short stories appear regularly in the New Yorker. In 1997, he was named Honorary Commander of the British Empire. He lives in Devon, England.
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William Trevor was born in 1928 in Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland. He spent his childhood in provincial Ireland and attended Irish secondary schools before entering Trinity College. He has written many prize-winning novels and collections of short stories. In 1992 Trevor's THE COLLECTED STORIES from his first seven smaller collections was chosen by the NY Times as one of the best books of the year. And now his second volume of stories has achieved the same award.
"...unforgettable lives" not dysfunctional families. A vivid, almost painful at times, picture of relationships in a setting evoking a strong sense of place....especially the stories set in rural and small-town Ireland.
For a smaller volume of stories, may I suggest the Penguin paperback (1998) entitled Ireland? It contains my two favorite Trevor stories--"The Paradise Lounge" and "The Ballroom of Romance."
Irishman John Banville, Booker award-winner, called Trevor the "greatest living writer of short stories," and I agreed, thinking maybe his pick for "greatest dead writer" was James Joyce (Dubliners). And wondering what he thought of other favorites, Elizabeth Bowen (The Collected Stories) and Frank O'Connor (Collected Stories).
SELECTED STORIES gathers 48 pieces from Trevor's last four collections. This one serves as a second volume to THE COLLECTED STORIES, published in 1992. These current selections focus on life using humor and realism. Short stories are more than brief narratives; they still must be complete tales. Trevor shows a remarkable ability to say things in his short stories without actually putting the words on the page. He avoids the first person in his writing and simply tells his story through the voice of a storyteller. It's a formula that wears well for his readers.
The Irish-born Trevor sets most of his tales in England and Ireland. In "Child's Play," Gerald and Rebecca are the individual children of parents who have lived through tumultuous marriages. The kids become part of a new family when their parents are married, which allows them to live together in a unique and imaginary world. As the relationship in the newly formed family deteriorates, the imaginary games that had come to them by chance, "...a gift thrown out from other people's circumstances," come to an end. "Helplessness was their natural state."
Life events are an important element in Trevor's stories. Weddings and funerals are often the foundation of his plots. "The Piano Tuner's Wives" tells readers of two women who marry the title character. "Violet married the piano tuner when he was a young man. Belle married him when he was old." Widowed after years of marriage, the piano tuner remarries the woman he jilted prior to his first marriage. While his second wife gets "the ruins of him," she also gets the opportunity to remake the tuner in a life more agreeable to her. "And that seemed fair also, since Violet had won in the beginning and had had the better years."
"The Hill Bachelors" is set in Ireland. Paulie, the youngest child of an Irish farmer, returns home for his father's funeral. He remains at the farm to assist his mother and searches for a wife. The prospects are slim as the local girls do not wish to live on a farm. Paulie sees himself becoming like the other farmers of his age, hill bachelors, "...men, some of them kept company by a mother or a sister." But the opportunity to sell the farm causes him to recognize its importance. He cannot leave it; the hills have claimed him as one of their own.
Trevor's stories are a mix of past and present. While set in contemporary times, they also remind readers of an older world, an England and Ireland where religious quarrels may have ended but have not yet been forgotten. For Trevor, it's not all about what has changed but what has remained the same. These stories are told in simple yet beautiful prose and are timeless. Not without cause is William Trevor one of the greatest short-story writers of his generation. The proof is on the pages of SELECTED STORIES.
--- Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman