The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories


Ireland has always been a nation of storytellers: tall stories, simple stories, stories of mystery and wonder, of love and violence form part of Irish conversation as naturally as passing the time of day. What began as both entertainment and communication through the spoken word grew into a literary form that no other country can match. The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories triumphantly demonstrates that development, from the early folk-tales of the oral tradition here translated from the Irish through Oliver ...
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Ireland has always been a nation of storytellers: tall stories, simple stories, stories of mystery and wonder, of love and violence form part of Irish conversation as naturally as passing the time of day. What began as both entertainment and communication through the spoken word grew into a literary form that no other country can match. The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories triumphantly demonstrates that development, from the early folk-tales of the oral tradition here translated from the Irish through Oliver Goldsmith and Maria Edgeworth to James Joyce and Liam O'Flaherty and the rising stars of the next generation.

William Trevor has been described as 'perhaps the finest short-story writer in the English language', and he brings a special sensibility and awareness to his role as editor. All the stories in his selection 'have been influenced by a culture that made much of the fiction it could best absorb'. They are 'the distillations of an essence', in whose subtleties portraiture thrives. Some deriver their strength from brevity, others require a considerable spread to achieve their effect. Trevor does not eschew the long short story, as distinct from the novella, so the masterly 'Albert Nobbs' by George Moore is accorded its place, and Willam Carleton, Sheridan Le Fanu, Seumas O'Kelly, and James Joyce are all given the space their writing deserves.

The roots of the modern short story in Ireland are firmly embedded in the soil of the past, and in this wonderful anthology echoes and influences pervade individual stories to enrich our understanding of unique literary tradition.

Spanning the entire history of the Irish short story, from folk tales to modern writing, this is the most broad ranging anthology available. Included are such masters as James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen and Frank O'Connor.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Review from previous edition: "The very best of centuries of Irish short fiction...A classic, take-your-breath-away collection cannily assembled by a master of the medium William Trevor"--Observer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199583140
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 5/13/2010
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 352,264
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

William Trevor

William Trevor was born in Mitchelstown, County Cork in 1928 and spent his childhood in provincial Ireland. He attended a number of Irish schools and later Trinity College, Dublin. He is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters and was awarded an honorary CBE in 1977 in recognition of his services to literature. His most recent publication is 'The Hill Bachelors' (2000), and his other books include 'The Ballroom of Romance' (1972), 'Angels at the Ritz' (1975, Royal Society of Literature Award), 'Children of Dynmouth' (1976, Whitbread Award), 'Other People's Worlds' (1980), and 'The News From Ireland' (1986).


"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

Table of Contents

The Hour of Death Fionn in Search of his Youth Cromwell and the Friar The Girl and the Sailor The Four-leafed Shamrock and the Cock The Cow that ate the Piper Conal and Donal and Taig Adventures of a Strolling Player, Oliver Goldsmith
The Limerick Gloves, Maria Edgeworth
The Death of a Devotee, William Carleton
The Brown Man, Gerald Griffin
Green Tea, Sheridan Le Fanu
Albert Nobbs, George Moore
The Sphinx without a Secret, Oscar Wilde
Philippa's Fox Hunt, E.E. Somerville and Martin Ross
The Priest, Daniel Corkery
The Weaver's Grave, Seumas O'Kelly
The Dead, James Joyce
My Little Black Ass, Padraic O Conaire
The Triangle, James Stephens
Bush River, Joyce Carey
The Pedlar's Revenge, Liam O'Flaherty
The Fanatic, Liam O'Flaherty
Her Table Spread, Elizabeth Bowen
The Faithless Wife, Sean O'Faolain
The Sugawn Chair, Sean O'Faolain
Guests of the Nation, Frank O'Connor
The Majesty of the Law, Frank O'Connor
Pastorale, Patrick Boyle
The Hare-Lip, Mairtan O Cadhain
The Poteen Maker, Michael McLaverty
The Ring, Bryan MacMahon
Sarah, Mary Lavin
Desert Island, Terence De Vere White
The Pilgrims, Benedict Kiely
Weep for our Pride, James Plunkett
Loser, Val Mulkerns
The Bird I Fancied, Aidan Higgins
Death in Jerusalem, William Trevor
The Diviner, Brian Friel
An Occasion of Sin, John Montague
Irish Revel, Edna O'Brien
First Conjugation, Julia O'Faolain
The Beginning of an Idea, John McGahern
Life Drawing, Bernard Mac Laverty
The Airedale, Desmond Hogan
Index of Authors

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