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William Trevor

Blarney was nothing unusual for short story writer William Trevor.  He was born on May 24, 1928, in Mitchelstown, Ireland, and grew up listening to the tall tales of the locals.  His collections of short stories include The Day We Got Drunk on Cake and Other Stories (1967) and Beyond the Pale (1981).  His novels include Felicia's Journey (1994) and The Story of Lucy Gault (2002).

Trevor's father, James Cox, worked as a bank manager, which meant that the family was forced to move frequently.  Trevor attended 13 different schools throughout the area, including St. Columba's College, County Dublin, where he was taught by sculptor Oisin Kelly.  After receiving a degree in history from Trinity College in 1950, he began sculpting.

His works appeared throughout Dublin, and he was commissioned to sculpt relief carvings for several churches.  In 1953, he married his college sweetheart, Jane Ryan.  The following year, at the peak of his sculpting career, he tired of the art form and emigrated with his new wife to England.  Settling in the West Country where his wife worked as a teacher, Trevor wrote his first novel, A Standard of Behaviour (1958), which received little critical notice from the press. 

Disappointed, he moved to London in 1960.  He needed a more reliable source of to support his wife and felt that his art had become too abstract for rural Ireland.  In London, he took a job working as a copywriter at a local advertising agency.  Although he didn't enjoy his work (he resigned shortly before he was scheduled to be fired by his manager), he gained the confidence to pick up his pen again, and he began to publish stories in both the Transatlantic Review and London Magazine.  Soon after, publisher Bodley Head became interested in his work and asked him to write a novel.  He reworked an unpublished short story, The Old Boys, about eight men, each over 80 years of age, who met at a reunion at their old public school.  The book went on to win the Hawthornden Prize in 1964.

Trevor has since written many more novels and short stories.  Best known for writing about ordinary people who find themselves trapped by their circumstances, he said, "All my writing is about non-communication—which is very sad and very funny."

Trevor's fiction, set mainly in Ireland and England, ranges from black comedies characterized by eccentrics and sexual deviants to stories exploring Irish history and politics.  They delve into the tensions between Irish Protestant landowners and Catholic tenants in what critics have termed the "big house" novels.  The sense of isolation and disintegrating community that Trevor builds into his writing has earned him comparisons to Ireland's best known twentieth-century modernist writer, James Joyce.

Trevor's story, Mrs. Acland's Ghosts, begins in typical Trevor fashion:

"Mr. Mockler was a tailor.  He carried on his business in a house that after twenty-five years of mortgage arrangements had finally become his: 22 Juniper Street, SW 17.  He had never married and since he was now sixty-three it seemed likely that he never would.  In an old public house, the Charles the First, he had a drink every evening with his friends Mr. Uprichard and Mr. Tile, who were tailors also.  He lived in his house in Juniper Street with his cat Sam, and did his own cooking and washing and cleaning: he was not unhappy."

Besides writing novels and short stories, Trevor has also dabbled in screenwriting.  Two of his scripts are adaptations of his own works, My House in Umbria and Felicia's Journey, that have been made into films (in 2003 and 1999 respectively). 

Trevor once said, "I am not much interested in myself either as a person or as a writer. I tend rather to write and to leave it at that....Writing...suffers from too much introspective attention."

In 2002, he received an honorary knighthood in recognition of his services to literature.  Today, Trevor lives and works at his home in Devon, England, and is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters.  His latest book, A Bit On the Side (2004), is a collection of short stories on adultery.

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