Beyond the Pale & Other Stories

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m currently re-reading The Folio Society‘s beautiful edition of Beyond the Pale & Other Stories by William Trevor. Published in 2010, it includes an introduction written by Trevor the previous year. A notable coup, given how notoriously media-shy the author is. The eighteen short stories are accompanied by illustrations from Lyndon Hayes. Although they took me a while to warm to, I now see what a perfect fit they are for this collection.

There’s something about Trevor’s writing that puts me a little on edge. Despite the familiarity of the settings, the gentle nuances of daily life, there is always a part of me that remains removed from his stories. When I first picked up this edition the striking, somewhat harsh, style of Lyndon’s illustrations did nothing to diminish that feeling.

It was the same when I read Trevor’s last novel, Love and Summer. I held back from embracing the character of Ellie. There is a cool feeling of detachment sometimes in Trevor’s depiction of women.  In this collection he writes a lot from the female perspective. He is dutiful in addressing the varied emotions and responses his female characters experience when faced with the beginning, the end, or the possibility of romance. Yet I’m never fully satisfied.

This preoccupation with a character often stays with me after I finish one of Trevor’s stories. I find myself pondering their next move. Wondering if they’ll go back on their decisions, wondering—in some cases— if they’ll even make a decision. Lyndon’s paintings have the same effect. They linger long after I’ve left the book down. Expertly chosen.

I’ve never considered myself a short story fan. It would be unlike me to choose a collection above a novel. Now though I see that a short story is as much about what is left unsaid, as it is about what an author chooses to include.

For the reader, part of the short story’s allure is filling in the blanks. Once I thought about it, I realised that was exactly what I had been doing whenever I walked away from Trevor’s stories.

Suddenly I had a deeper appreciation for the skill of short story writing.

I think of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now. She’s doesn’t provide specifics, but she covers a whole lot. So too does Trevor, in his carefully selected and sparse choice of words.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.