Sunday, June 05, 2011

The short story flourishes in collections by Trevor and Fallon

Book 60:  Selected Stories by William Trevor 

Book 64:  You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

My reading in late May and early June includes two superb short story collections

The collection from Irish native William Trevor is hefty, encompassing 48 stories and 567 pages and representing more than a half century of work. 

The second collection, belonging to American Siobhan Fallon, is a slender volume of only eight stories and slightly more than 200 pages. It is her first book.

Trevor and Canadian writer Alice Munro are the two finest short story writers today.   Fallon joins Maile Meloy, whose entrancing collection Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It debuted last year, as two of the most promising young writers practicing the short form today.

If we use art as a metaphor, the novelist is a muralist working on a vast surface with an extensive palette and numerous subjects. The short story is a miniature, the palette limited. The short story writer has a narrow focus. It is about subtle detail rather than broad strokes.

The stories by Trevor and Fallon are both rich in detail and observation. The best writers take us inside a world we do know not, allowing us to savor its foreign elements, while finding areas of identification and affinity. We come to understand the commonality of the human experience.

Trevor deftly maneuvers through the world of farmers and priests, lovers and loners.

Fallon's eight remarkable stories are focused the American Army base at Fort Hood outside of Killeen, Texas. Whether she is writing about soldiers or the wives who are left behind she taps a deep well of empathy for the men and women who have sacrificed the quotidian American life for a life ruled by uncertainty, separation, the whims of war and arbitrary military protocol.

In these two collections, a master of the short form, and a student, have both produced closely observed works of rare beauty, power and insight.

No comments:

Post a Comment