William Trevor’s final story collection, appropriately entitled Last Stories, is published today by Viking. A number of these stories appeared originally in The New Yorker, and it’s nice to see them collected here, along with other, new stories. It’s a bittersweet day, for sure, to think that we will no longer have the opportunity to read a new Trevor piece, as Trevor died in November 2016, and yet part of Trevor’s genius is that his stories are eminently re-readable. There’s always something new to appreciate—a shimmer of an understanding, a twisting of an ethical truth—that you might have missed on the first or second time through.
Trevor’s fiction is typically set in England and Ireland. As he developed as a writer, his focus shifted from contemporary London to rural Ireland. Along with this change, his work took on somewhat of a timeless feel. Occasionally there’s a time marker—a year, a war, song titles, a 1960’s key party—but often the time is difficult to pin down. Trevor was interested in exploring memory and class and politics and religion and love, always through the lens of character. His fiction often features lonely people who can’t quite figure out how to make a connection or how to stop the past from overwhelming the present.
Trevor’s body of work is extensive, even though he didn’t start publishing his writing until later in life, after working as a sculptor and in advertising. If you’re interested in learning and reading more, we’ve rounded up some of our favorites below.
Getting Lost in William Trevor’s Private World: A beautiful essay in Literary Hub by D. Wystan Owen, whose collection Other People’s Love Affairs is out in August. This piece so nicely looks at the way that Trevor understood character and the human condition.
William Trevor’s Quiet Explosions: In The New Yorker, Marisa Silver focuses on the details that make Trevor’s stories great.
Guardian Obituary: A detailed and personal account of Trevor’s life by Peter Porter, who predeceased Trevor.
British Academy: William Trevor: Revaluation. Panel discussion including Hermione Lee, Lyn Innes, and Michael O’Neill.
The Paris Review: Quintessential interview from 1989, featuring Trevor’s classic definition of a short story.
The Guardian: An interview from 2009.
Charleston Trust: Diana Reich interviews Trevor, following his win of the Charleston-Chicester Award for a Lifetime’s Excellence in Short Fiction in 2013.
If you pick up Collected Stories, published in 1992; Selected Stories, published in 2009; and Last Stories, you will have most of Trevor’s short stories on hand. We’re particularly partial to some of the collections and stories published in the 1980’s and 1990’s: The News From Ireland, After Rain, and A Bit on the Side.
Trevor said, “Short stories are what I love.” We do, too. We’ve listed below some of our Trevor favorites.
“The Day We Got Drunk on Cake”
“The Ballroom of Romance”
“Angels at the Ritz”
“Teresa’s Wedding” (Listen to Trevor read at the 92nd Street Y in 2008)
“Downstairs at Fitzgerald’s”
“Beyond the Pale”
“In Love with Ariadne”
“The News from Ireland”
“The Wedding in the Garden”
“The Piano Tuner’s Wives” (Listen to Trevor read at the 92nd Street Y in 2008)
“A Day” (Listen to Jhumpa Lahiri read and discuss with Deborah Treisman)
“Three People” (Listen to Yiyun Li read)
“Low Sunday, 1950”
“An Evening Out”
“A Bit on the Side”
“Cheating at Canasta”
“A Perfect Relationship”
“The Piano Teacher’s Pupil”
“An Idyll in Winter”
Many believe that Trevor’s strength lay in his short stories and, perhaps not surprisingly, his novels are slim, often closer to the length of a novella. That said, many of them are wonderful, the extended length allowing Trevor the space to experiment a bit more with voice and plot. Fools of Fortune, our favorite novel, uses the first person direct address to great effect.
Fools of Fortune
The Story of Lucy Gault
And Trevor also wrote plays and non-fiction. Enough to keep us reading his words for a very long time.