More than thirty years later, I can still vividly recall reading William Trevor‘s “The Distant Past”, a minutely observed, brilliantly-written short story about change and the resistance to change. Trevor died earlier today at the age of 88. The Irish writer’s work is being rightly celebrated this evening; he was possibly the finest writer of short fiction of the latter half of the twentieth century (perhaps only Alice Munro is his equal in both output and consistent mastery of prose.) Joyce Carol Oates praised his “beautifully composed, lyrical, understated prose,” while fellow Irishman John Banville wonders why Trevor’s novel Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neill’s Hotel is not more widely-read.
Trevor’s writing more often than not focuses on the loneliness and quiet desperation of domesticity, and he was particularly astute on life in the English suburbs, as well as on the small-town, “lace-curtain Protestants” of his native Cork. He published almost 50 stories in the New Yorker. He famously worked extremely hard to hone his work; his craft is all in the editing, the cutting, and rewriting. Trevor disdained the limelight and seldom gave interviews, but he made an exception for the Paris Review.