Excursions in the Real World: Memoirs

Overview

A modern master of the short story brings his precise and compassionate observations to bear on his own life, in a book of recollections that is at once funny, poignant, and revealing. As William Trevor records his migration from the shabby-genteel precincts of Ireland's Protestant middle-class to the sleek vulgarity of London in the swinging sixties, from Cork and Dublin to New York and Isfahan, he yields luminous portraits of the people whose paths crossed his. There is the roaring schoolmaster with the passion...
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Overview

A modern master of the short story brings his precise and compassionate observations to bear on his own life, in a book of recollections that is at once funny, poignant, and revealing. As William Trevor records his migration from the shabby-genteel precincts of Ireland's Protestant middle-class to the sleek vulgarity of London in the swinging sixties, from Cork and Dublin to New York and Isfahan, he yields luminous portraits of the people whose paths crossed his. There is the roaring schoolmaster with the passion for spelling bees; the glamorous emigre with a weakness for faithless poets. There are Trevor's parents, marooned in a marriage that grew more arid by the year. In Excursions in the Real World, Trevor turns memory into a fabulous balancing act between truthfulness and art.

A modern master of the short story brings his precise and compassionate observations to bear on his own life, in a book of recollections that is at once funny, poignant, and revealing--an eloquent book in which Trevor turns memory into a balancing act between truthfulness and art. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Prolific novelist and short-story writer Trevor Two Lives here presents an autobiography consisting of 29 vignettes--a number of which have appeared in print before. He relates how it felt to grow up Protestant in ``de Valera's new Catholic Ireland,'' where he was born in 1928. We participate in his childhood adventures with Henry O'Reilly, ``the laziest man in Ireland,'' and the poor, tortured family maid, Kitty, who had ``stormy'' teeth. We also meet Miss Quirke, the omniscient teacher, who, a dreamer, ``deserved the Champs-Elysees,'' and the headmaster known as ``the Bull,'' who had a great suspicion about men in semi-clerical dress. The memoir is filled with wonderful reminiscences about Dublin and Trevor's undergraduate days at Trinity College, where studies never got in the way of whoring with ``the last of the night ladies--the best remembered a one-legged dressmaker from Cabra.'' We are also escorted to the swinging London of the '60s, and to decadent New York City in Watergate-drenched 1973 America. The author's sharp eye for people and events, subtleties and blandness, make this a charming read. Feb.
Library Journal
Well known for his novels and short stories ( Two Lives , LJ 8/91), the Irish writer Trevor brings together a good storyteller's recollections of people and places from his past. Versions of many of these sketches have appeared in The New Yorker and other periodicals, more than half in the 1990s, the rest in the two previous decades. Trevor describes his childhood in rural Ireland, school experiences in Dublin, work as a teacher and copywriter, and places he has visited. The writing is superb; Trevor makes clear the essence of unforgettable people--friends, colleagues, and strangers--in a few words. Places--New York, San Francisco, Venice, Dublin--are re-created from a new perspective. The 30 original drawings by Lucy Willis are an excellent complement to the text. Recommended, especially for biography and British literature collections.-- Judy Mimken, Saginaw Valley State Univ., Mich.
Brad Hooper
His recent "Collected Stories" confirmed in all quarters Trevor's preeminence in the English-language short story. Can his latest work, a memoir-in-essays, establish his superiority in the autobiography genre? It can hardly do otherwise, for it's a triumph of memory, as Trevor mines particularly sparkling nuggets from the recesses of his past. Numbering 29 pieces, this collection of essay-sketches is less a bag of loose gems than a diadem of carefully set ones. The incidents Trevor remembers, primarily of growing up in Ireland but also of places he's visited as an adult, are recollected mostly because of the delightfully eccentric characters they involved. This type of person, as all readers of Trevor will know, worked its way into the frame and fabric of almost all his marvelous stories. "I became a writer of fiction and began--as all fiction writers do--to refashion the real world, to pick over bits and pieces of experience and use anything that was useful." But then he adds as a corollary, "These essays are a small part of what has been left behind after all that." What delicious leftovers they are, though!
From the Publisher
"William Trevor is one of the century's greatest writers of the short story." —The Globe and Mail

"Book after book, story after novel after story, it's a wonder how anyone can manage every single time the impeccable crescendo, the perfect pitch, the devastating finale... Trevor is one of the great short-story writers of our time." —Alberto Manguel

"Probably the greatest living writer of short stories in the English language." —The New Yorker

From Barnes & Noble
Affectionate,poignant, and humorous, here are rich autobiographical essays about the people & places, personal fascinations & enthusiasms that have captured the interest and affection of one of Ireland's most esteemed writers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679430292
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/25/1994
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.17 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

William Trevor
William Trevor was born in Cork in 1928. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and has spent a great part of his life in Ireland. Since his first novel, The Old Boys, was awarded the Hawthorne Prize in 1964, he has received many honours for his work including the Royal Society of Literature Award, the allied Irish Banks Prize for Literature and the Whitbread Prize for fiction. He is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters and he has bee awarded an Honorary CBE. His most recent books are Two Lives and The Collected Stories of William Trevor.

Lucy Willis works principally in watercolour an etching and is one of the most versatile of contemporary British artists. Her growing reputation as a portraitist in oils was confirmed in 1992 when she won first prize in the BP National Portrait Gallery Award.

Biography

"William Trevor is an extraordinarily mellifluous writer, seemingly incapable of composing an ungraceful sentence," Brooke Adams once wrote in the New York Times Book Review. Hailed by the New Yorker as "probably the greatest living writer of short stories in the English language," Trevor has also written over a dozen acclaimed novels as well as several plays. His characters are often people whose desires have been unfulfilled, and who come to rely on various forms of self-deception and fantasy to make their lives bearable.

Trevor was born in 1928 to a middle-class, Protestant family in Ireland. After graduating from Trinity College with a degree in history, he attempted to carve out a career as a sculptor. He moved to England in 1954 and exhibited his sculptures there; he also wrote his first novel, A Standard of Behavior, which was published in 1958 but met with little critical success. His second novel, The Old Boys, won the 1964 Hawthornden Prize for Literature and marked the beginning of a long and prolific career as a novelist, short-story writer and playwright.

Three of Trevor's novels have won the prestigious Whitbread Novel of the Year Award: The Children of Dynmouth, Fools of Fortune and Felicia's Journey. Felicia's Journey, about a pregnant Irish girl who goes to England to find the lover who abandoned her, was adapted for the screen in 1999 by director Atom Egoyan. Trevor, who has described himself as a short-story writer who enjoys writing novels, has also written such celebrated short stories as "Three People," in which a woman who murdered her disabled sister harbors an unspoken longing for the man who provided her with an alibi, and "The Mourning," about a young man who is pressed by political activists into planting a bomb (both from The Hill Bachelors).

Some critics have noted a change in Trevor's work over the years: his early stories tend to contain comic sketches of England, while his later ones describe Ireland with the elegiac tone of an expatriate. Trevor, who now lives in Devon, England, has suggested that he has something of an outsider's view of both countries. "I feel a sense of freshness when I come back [to Ireland]," he said in a 2000 Irish radio interview. "If I lived in, say, Dungarvan or Skibbereen, I think I wouldn't notice things."

As it stands, Trevor is clearly a writer who notices things, just as one of his characters notices "the glen and the woods and the seashore, the flat rocks where the shrimp pools were, the room she woke up in, the chatter of the hens in the yard, the gobbling of the turkeys, her footsteps the first marks on the sand when she walked to Kilauran to school" (The Story of Lucy Gault). Yet as Trevor told an interviewer for The Irish Times, "You mustn't write about what you know. You must use your imagination. Fiction is an act of the imagination." Trevor's fertile imagination captures, as Alice McDermott wrote in The Atlantic, "the terrible beauty of Ireland's fate, and the fate of us all -- at the mercy of history, circumstance, and the vicissitudes of time."

Good To Know

When Trevor was growing up, he wanted to be a clerk in the Bank of Ireland -- following in the footsteps of his father, James William Cox. Cox's career as a bank manager took the family all over Ireland, and Trevor attended over a dozen different schools before entering Trinity College in Dublin.

Trevor married his college sweetheart, Jane Ryan, in 1952. After the birth of their first son, Trevor worked for a time as an advertising copywriter in London. He also sculpted and worked as an art teacher, but gave up his sculpting after it became "too abstract."

In addition to the 1999 film Felicia's Journey, two other movies have been based on Trevor's works: Fools of Fortune (1990), directed by Pat O'Connor, and Attracta (1983), directed by Kieran Hickey. According to Trevor's agent, the plays Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria are also being adapted for the screen.

Trevor is also the author of several plays, most of which are not in print in the U.S. Works include Scenes from an Album, Marriages, and Autumn Sunshine.

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    1. Also Known As:
      William Trevor Cox (birth name)
    2. Hometown:
      Devon, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 24, 1928
    2. Place of Birth:
      Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland
    1. Education:
      Trinity College, Dublin, 1950

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