Tuesday, November 22, 2016
RIP William Trevor - one of the 2 greatest living writers of short stories in English
Rest in peace William Trevor, who died today (ou peut etra hier), one of the two greatest living English-language short story writers is now gone (leaving Alice Munro) - though neither had been publishing much if at all over the past three or four years. Trevor was often called the English counterpart to Chekhov, and I think that's quite accurate: his short stories were like novels in miniature, not because they were packed with action or incident, quite the opposite, but because by containing so little - often just one scene or action - they conveyed and implied so much. I was not surprised to read in the NYTimes obit that Trevor had in earlier life pursued a career as a sculptor: in both sculpture and writing, his writing anyway, it's all about what's removed from the fiction (as he said in one interview); he has also said that he considers his novels - there were more than a dozen - to be failed short stories. His career as a sculptor also explains the haunting beauty of one of his greatest stories, Sacred Statues - about a young man who gives up a working-class job to create statuary for churches, but can't make a living at it, ends up on a road crew, and the beautiful last line that I can only paraphrase: The world, not he, had failed. I wish I could remember more of his stories in detail - but what stays with me is primarily the mood of loneliness, sorrow, missed opportunities, a world of being much like Chekhov's, as it happens. I believe I have 17 posts on Trevor, which those interested can look at - mostly from my reading of his Selected (or Collected?) Stories, about 5 years ago. I would say the only thing not good about Bob Dylan's winning the Nobel Prize for literature this year is that now Trevor will never receive the honor (which goes only to living writers): I wish they split the prize the year Munro won (as they did years ago, I think for 2 Israeli authors).