Sterling collection of short pieces by noted Irish writer Trevor (Love and Summer, 2009, etc.).
The author is a bard of quiet disappointments and muffled misunderstandings in small places, and often nothing much happens in his stories—just as nothing much happens in most people’s lives. He is also a practitioner of the perfect, all-enfolding sentence, as with the opening of the opening story: “Violet married the piano tuner when he was a young man. Belle married him when he was old.” You just know that there’s a tale in between, and if it’s set in a perfectly ordinary setting, that tale will be told without the grimness and ennui that have been in fashion in the short story in the post-Carver era. Some of his stories are anything but ordinary, as when a priest is taken by surprise by a man he has helped, only to be accused of long-ago improprieties: “a brain addled by recourse to methylated spirits,” thinks said priest, “would naturally be blurred by now”—but all the same he caves in to the two-bit blackmail of a bleary bum, guiltless but still guilty. Priests often figure in these stories, which are, after all, mostly set in Ireland (or, when not, in Italy), and religious questions, often exceedingly minor, come into play. In one story, a Protestant boy relates the manifestation of a saint to a priest, who wonders idly why it couldn’t have been a good Catholic boy to receive a sign of visitation: “Was it not enough that that march should occur every twelfth of July, that farmers from miles away should bang their way through the village just to show what was what, strutting in their get-up?” No, he learns, it’s not enough, as just about everyone in these stories has to cope with the imponderables that life throws at them.
Arresting images and troubling questions—Trevor is a master.