William Trevor--"Bravado"

Reading Cheating at Canasta amongst other things and marveling at the way a master can get away with the things every creative writing class tells you not to do.  For example, there is this beginning to the poignant story "Bravado:"

from "Bravado" 
in Cheating at Canasta
William Trevor

The leaves had begun to fall. All along Sunderland Avenue on the pavement beneath the beech trees there was a sprinkling, not yet the mushy inconvenience they would become when more fell and rain came, which inevitably would be soon. Not many people were about; it was after midnight, almost one o'clock, the widely space lampposts casting pools of misty yellow illumination. A man walked his dog in Blenning Road in the same blotchy lamplight, the first of autumn's leaves gathering there also. An upstairs window opened in Verdun Crescent, hands clapped to dismiss a cat nesting in a flowerbed. A car turned into Sunderland Avenue, its headlights dimmed and then extinguished, its alarm set for the night with a flurry of flashing orange and red. The traffic of the city was a hum that only faintly reached these leisurely streets, the occasional distant shriek of a police siren or ambulance more urgently disturbing the peace.

This kind of panning in on a scene is just not the way to start a piece as tightly wound as a short story needs to be.  And yet. . . it works in this story--and it works because the master of the story knows what he is about and knows that this is the way it begins--a survey--a momentary space of detail before we zoom in on the characters we are to follow through the rest of the action of the story.

And the story continues in this subdued and ruminative pace, piling moment upon moment and thought upon thought until it reaches this end (that should be a clue that those who wish to read and enjoy for themselves might better seek reading matter elsewhere--however, it has been my experience that little that I read at blogs tends to stick in my head other than an impression, good or bad--read or dismiss--so I'm not sure the warning is in order--nevertheless, you have it):

from "Bravado" 
in Cheating at Canasta
William Trevor

In a bleak cemetery Aisling begged forgiveness of the dead for the falsity she had embraced when what there was had been too ugly to accept. Silent she had watched an act committed to impress her, to deserve her love, as other acts had been. And watching there was pleasure. If only for a moment, but still there had been.

She might go away herself, and often thought she would: in the calm of another time and place to flee the shadows of bravado. Instead she stayed, a different person too, belonging where the thing had happened.

I know I do not speak alone when I note the brilliance of these highly polished gems of William Trevor--their tone, the way history stays with each character to make of the present something neither more nor less but something inextricably intertwined with the past.  This present is not this present without all that had gone before.  It is that profound but simple understanding of who we are as people, as human beings, that pervades his work and makes of the incedental a miracle.

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