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A Bit on the Side.

A Bit On The Side

William Trevor


375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

ISBN 067003343X $24.95, 245 pages

As exemplified in the collection A Bit On The Side, William Trevor is one of the few masters of the short story. In common with such other great short story writers as Alice Munro, Hemingway, and Updike, Trevor's short stories approach the depth and complexity of novels. This is particularly true of a collection of short stories when they are linked, as in A Bit On The Side, by an underlying theme. In Trevor's case the theme of individuals who have experienced deep disappoinment, frustration, and rejection. Trevor's main characters lead lives almost devoid of positive social reinforcement.

The economy of speech of Trevor's characters is a central feature of the economy of his writing. In "Big Bucks", for example, a character hears "a statement made through what was being left out."

Another characteristic of Trevor's writing is his detailed descriptions of characters' immediate surroundings, particularly when they are most strongly experiencing disappoint and frustration. "Big Bucks" also provides examples of this.

Sometimes we cannot determine whether a character's stated reason for doing or not doing something, is the real reason. Just as in our own lives. Is the reason Michael gives in "Big Bucks" for not marrying the young woman he left behind in Ireland the real reason? In "On the Streets" a man accosts his ex-wife on the street from time-to-time. He is unable to recover from a long-ago humiliation he suffered at the hands of a couple, which he has repeatedly described to his wife, now ex-wife. He now describes the revenge he finally exacted on the couple. Or is his claim of revenge false? In either case, he has, if only briefly, been able to to have the attention of another person.

Trevor was born and spent his childhood in provincial Ireland and much of his writing conveys the extremely circumscribed lives once led by the rural Irish. Most of them, as in "The Dancing Master's Music," accept, sometimes not willingly, their barren presents and the certainty that their futures will be nothing but more of the same.

In addition to other short story collections William Trevor is the author of the highly regarded novels Felicia's Journey and The Story of Lucy Gault.
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Author:Lamal, Peter
Publication:Reviewer's Bookwatch
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2004
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