Archive for William Trevor

Pg. 17, #8

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2020 by dcairns

It was hard to look at Estelle, for she was in front of a window, and the window was filled with windy sun, which hurt Sylvia’s eyes, and the glass rattled, which hurt her head. Also, Estelle was lecturing. Her nasal voice sounded as though her throat were a depository of rusty razor blades. ‘I wish you could see yourself,’ she was saying, Or was that something she had said a long while back? Never mind. ‘I don’t know what’s happened to you: I’ll bet you don’t way a hundred pounds, I can see every bone and vein, and your hair! You look like a poodle.’


“It is very true that I have a headache always on call, or on tap if you like and have only to move my head so — ah, devil take it!”


Guy removed his mask and let it hang, in correct form, across his chest to dry.


‘I’d like to be beautiful but sometimes I think I am strangely put together… They always write about me as the girl with the Fu Manchu finger nails and the nose as long as an anteater’s.’


His silence filled the shabby room. He took off his scarf and dropped it on the chair behind him. Sadie sat rocking very gently, making a cradle of her worry. He looked across at her. She looked so gormless that a suspicion formed in him slowly.


He looked across the distance at Mrs. Slape in maroon and Gallelty murmuring in emotion. Gallelty’s ferret face was all aquiver; he could see the twitch in her eye and her lips rising and falling.


The sensation of coping with real objects in the present tense was out of all proportion to its cause; film was still a record, even though it moved, But it was a kind of record no one had ever seen before, and its impact, even when the report was of something ordinary and familiar, was overwhelming. Had no one seen a kiss before? Not in this way. One of the relatively few surviving films that almost everyone has come across in museum showings or in commercial compilations is the still-celebrated May Irwin-John Rice The Kiss. The film runs less than a minute. Though both Miss Irwin and Mr. Rice were professional actors, we do not look at them as actors here. We simply see a rather large, coarsely grained, agreeably puckish woman heartily embrace and kiss a sportive gentleman with a formidable beard. But, for the first time, we see it monumentally close up, we see it all from beginning to end, and we see it with none of life’s discreet need to turn away. We are permitted to be fully present.


Seven passages from seven page seventeens from seven books from one shelf. It appears to be chance that three of the authors are called William, as is all the talk of masks and scarves and headaches, though I’ve been dealing with those things a lot lately.

First and Last, by Truman Capote (the extract is from the short story Master Misery); Close Quarters, by William Golding; A to Z of Hollywood Style, by Sinty Stemp (the speaker is Barbra Streisand); Officers and Gentlemen, by Evelyn Waugh; Laidlaw, by William McIlvanney; The Boarding House, by William Trevor; The Silent Clowns, by Walter Kerr.

Not Films

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2015 by dcairns


I picked up two novels by William Trevor and one by Robert Holdstock from a bin outside a charity shop. I didn’t realize Trevor was the author of Felicia’s Journey, filmed by Atom Egoyan, swiftly forgotten by the world. But I liked the cut of his gibberish. Still haven’t read them, though. They are The Boarding House and The Love Department.

The Holdstock was Mythago Wood, and I just read that — terrific stuff. I’m onto the sequel, Lavondyss. These are technically fantasy novels, but Holdstock’s take on myth is an inventive and intelligent one, imagining mythical characters as being products/inhabitants of the Jungian collective unconscious, and simultaneously quite real and corporeal. He creates his own, quite convincing proto-myths, speculations about the kind of stories our Bronze Age ancestors told each other around the fire, stories which would later mutate into more familiar forms. The protagonists are normal people who get sucked into this semi-real world of mythic characters, like Alice into Wonderland but with scarier consequences. Literally fantastic.

I followed this with The Glister, a novel by the Scottish poet John Burnside, which my collaborator Paul Duane recommended. It’s set in a post-industrial wasteland rather like the Zone in Tarkovsky’s STALKER, but more realistically toxic and depressive. There’s also a serial killer and a teenage protagonist, but these “commercial” elements do not resolve in the expected ways. It reminded me oddly of Iain Banks’ Complicity, in the way it refuses to deal with its killer the way genre fiction is supposed to. Complicity infuriated me, but The Glister is quite something — the language and the philosophy are as striking as the pungent, carcinogenic atmosphere of the piece.


The Knick, directed (and shot, and cut) by Steven Soderbergh, created and written by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, is back for a second series. As good as ever, making it still the best thing I’ve seen from this gifted, quirky, sometimes erratic filmmaker. Clive Owen performing nose-jobs for heroin, the second black character with a detached retina in a Soderbergh show (see OUT OF SIGHT), a very nasty nun, and the use of the line “I brought you some hard-boiled eggs and nuts,” which is sure to delight all fans of Stan & Ollie and COUNTY HOSPITAL. In-jokes aren’t always to be applauded, but since I didn’t spot a single one in the first ten hours of this show, I’m quite willing to allow a burst of exuberance of this kind.


We did watch an actual movie — CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, picked up from the library since we enjoyed the same team’s THE LEGO MOVIE (dirs. Phil Lord & Chris Miller). By chance, it takes place in exactly the same kind of hopeless, post-industrial seaside town as The Glister. Really good jokes: “I wanted to run away, but you can’t run away from your own feet,” says the hero after a mishap with spray-on shoes. It’s part of the New Breed, inaugurated by the first TOY STORY — when it goes emotional, it doesn’t feel the need to stop being funny. I wasn’t over-enamoured of the character design at first, but James Caan’s gruff dad character is masterful. The shape of the head puts me in mind of the Freudenstein Monster in Fulci’s THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, or of Isabelle Adjani’s weird child/lover in POSSESSION, but the moustache and monobrow raise it to a whole new level. Oddly, when he’s surprised and his eyebrow rises to reveal actual ocular equipment, dad just looks wrong.