William Trevor

A truly great writer died on Sunday. William Trevor was 88 and had been on the literary scene since a few minutes after the Ark struck dry land. The details of the life are in the NY Times obit (link below), and encomia from all sorts of Irish writers of note are in the link to the Irish Times. They will handle that part of the story better than I can. What I will offer instead is a sense of his stature. For the first time in four decades it is possible for someone not named Trevor to be acclaimed the greatest living short story writer in English. My copy of his Collected Short Stories weighs in at something over 1200 pages. It appeared in 1993. Contemplating what the eventual page total of his Complete Stories will run to beggars the imagination. He wrote these stories in between and around writing something like nineteen novels–which on their own would constitute a major career. For something like two decades, any new Trevor title was likely to land on the front page of the New York Times Book Review. Given all that, it is slightly shocking that he is so little known in this country. I have never had a conversation with anyone other than a specialist in contemporary Irish literature who had the foggiest idea who William Trevor might be. The loss is entirely ours.

From the NYT: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjD66jK9LrQAhVK1oMKHTjPAcoQqQIIHjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2016%2F11%2F21%2Fbooks%2Fwilliam-trevor-dead.html&usg=AFQjCNEOg7PtGEQAKBLKVV3ndX1qPRBOFw&sig2=rw_xmRhssX3nzgFgFI3jsg

And the Irish Times: http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/a-complete-gentleman-a-master-craftsman-writers-salute-william-trevor-1.2876898 


Colson Whitehead and the NBA

National Book Award, that is. I was about twenty pages into The Underground Railroad when the thought struck me, “This book is going to win the National Book Award.” I bring this up not to tout my prescience (since there’s nothing there to tout) but to show what a force this novel is. Even in a chapter or two, it showed that it had everything: great prose, terrific characters, narrative magic, vivid descriptions (even when they are of hideous actions), and a powerful social commentary (often essential in prize winners). Read it.

In case you’re wondering, I have been right precisely one other time, when I finished Orhan Pamuk’s Snow and thought, “Someday, this guy will win the Nobel Prize.” Even then, I was wrong. My “someday” meant, in a decade or so, not in three months.