Comments for The Mookse and the Gripes http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews Books and films from around the world Thu, 22 Jun 2017 23:16:09 +0000 hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Comment on William Trevor: “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by Dennis Lang http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/19/william-trevor-the-piano-teachers-pupil/comment-page-1/#comment-208153 Thu, 22 Jun 2017 23:16:09 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21772#comment-208153 Hah!

Great name: Simon Trevor Berrett. Definitely Presidential–or renowned 21st century novelist!

Going to keep an eye on this kid!

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Comment on William Trevor: “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by Trevor Berrett http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/19/william-trevor-the-piano-teachers-pupil/comment-page-1/#comment-208152 Thu, 22 Jun 2017 22:53:54 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21772#comment-208152 I like the relationship! Told my wife that our last son should be William Trevor. He’s Simon Trevor instead, but I will have to tell him he was named after the great writer and not me :-)

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Comment on William Trevor: “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by avataram http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/19/william-trevor-the-piano-teachers-pupil/comment-page-1/#comment-208148 Wed, 21 Jun 2017 23:58:26 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21772#comment-208148 Trevor’s comments really helped me appreciate the story better – “….while we focus on the atmosphere of the piano teacher’s one room (we never leave it) and all of the men that have affected that private space: her father, her lover, and now this piano student.”

Is the story complete? Did Trevor intend to expand on it? In the presence of such beauty, such an unexpected, wonderful little story, these questions are like the lost knick knacks of the Piano teacher. They dont matter. It is wonderful that it was found on his desk, unpublished. Very grateful that it is TNY’s story of the week.

I am also relishing the coincidence of Trevor the author and Trevor of Mookse! I have to say I enjoy reading both Trevors.

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Comment on Joy Williams: “Chicken Hill” by Nicole127 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2015/09/07/joy-williams-chicken-hill/comment-page-1/#comment-208147 Wed, 21 Jun 2017 21:07:59 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=16477#comment-208147 After many readings and several days of pondering, I have come to some personal conclusions about this beautifully crafted and humorous story. The first is that the opening paragraphs about Hector’s fundraiser is to set the timing as the end of Ruth’s life. I believe the last real thing that happened was eating the tuna sandwich and having a heart attack. For me that was the first comical line; how she only ate tuna occasionally because it was physically uncomfortable. If eating a tuna sandwich feels like a heart attack, one would probably never eat them at all. Tuna sandwich, heart attack — those are her paltry details. All the rest of the story, including everything with the little girl, dressing in a sweater and mildewed shoes, and walking to the doctor’s house, happened only in Ruth’s mind in the last moments of her life.

It was wanting to know whether the little girl was real or not that led me to reread this story so many times. But almost everything she said sounded like things that only an adult would say, phrases that Ruth’s mind would put in her mouth. Like “The need for blood is constant and ongoing,” “Once you’re dead you shouldn’t be read,” and “You’d think she’d taken a bullet for a senator or something.” If those are insufficient, referring to her own mother as “the doctor” should satisfy that this isn’t a real little girl.

So many details point to what it might be like at the end of a long life, when all the things that gave meaning to one’s existence just cease to matter, and the most vivid things are not in the present or future but all in the past. The sour milk, the rotten spots on the veranda, the cottonwood trees that were “dangerous” as they were living on fumes, or the memory of water. The fact that none of her friends knew that she’d gone to the fundraiser seems to say that she isn’t close to anyone anymore. That line, about how the closer she got to the Barbed Wire the harder it was to find, seems to me to be a metaphor for the confusion that characterizes the end of one’s life.

This story has held me in its grip for days now. It has affected me as only a handful of literature does. I am grateful for the author’s work.

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Comment on William Trevor: “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by Trevor http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/19/william-trevor-the-piano-teachers-pupil/comment-page-1/#comment-208146 Wed, 21 Jun 2017 20:28:36 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21772#comment-208146 I’m heartened to hear that you both are enjoying Trevor’s work! Enjoying but also seeing some of the same qualities I am. It’s a delight to hear and share this kind of admiration!

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Comment on William Trevor: “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by Dennis Lang http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/19/william-trevor-the-piano-teachers-pupil/comment-page-1/#comment-208144 Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:29:48 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21772#comment-208144 Trevor, I can’t imagine any admiration for a writer’s work more compelling than your line above: “It has changed me for the better.”
Having just been introduced to William Trevor here at the Mookse, and had the opportunity now to read a number of his stories, including this one, there is a rare magic happening. i don’t know exactly–compassion, empathy, acceptance, dignity…–all so beautifully expressed in mood and atmosphere. It becomes palpable. We are enriched by the experience.

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Comment on William Trevor: “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by David http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/19/william-trevor-the-piano-teachers-pupil/comment-page-1/#comment-208143 Wed, 21 Jun 2017 15:33:50 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21772#comment-208143 The first story William Trevor reads in that video is “Teresa’s Wedding”. Since Google books lets you read the text of it in full, I decided to listen to him read it and read along. It is an incredibly good story. It reminded me of James Joyce’s Dubliners, one of my favourite short story collections. Hearing him read only made it better. Marvelous stuff!
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Interestingly, the version he read and the print version of the story I had were not the same. He made a number of small revisions in a few places. It reminded me that with short stories the fact that a work is published is never an indication that the author has finished writing it. Just that it is good enough for now and might get some more alterations when anthologized or re-published. So no matter how close to finished “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” might have been, I am fairly sure he might have taken at least one more look at it and found things to make better.

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Comment on Alice Munro: “Eskimo” by betsy pelz http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/02/alice-munro-eskimo/comment-page-1/#comment-208129 Wed, 21 Jun 2017 02:28:08 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21384#comment-208129 Harri, I like the wording in and the progress of your sentence:

“Is Mary Jo going to reorganize her life, free herself from the total dependence on the cardiologist who understands very little about heart? “

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Comment on Alice Munro: “A Queer Streak” by betsy pelz http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/20/alice-munro-a-queer-streak/comment-page-1/#comment-208128 Wed, 21 Jun 2017 02:23:01 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21405#comment-208128 And regarding the autobiographical which is always present:

in this story Munro imagines not just the cramped life of never enough money that she knew as a child, but the desperation of extreme poverty. And in this story, there is not just a physically disabled mother, there is a mother who has a screw loose, who may be in some way cognitively disabled, or crazy or both. And this is topped off with an ignorant, completely ineffectual and incestuous joke for a father, rather than the kind, stable literate father who was Munro’s father. So the story is an experiment in the extreme. What if? How would I have survived?

But primarily, I think the story explores what pure religion is made of: not dogma, not ritual, but actual love – actual forgiveness and actual compassion and actual hard work.

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Comment on William Trevor: “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by Trevor Berrett http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/19/william-trevor-the-piano-teachers-pupil/comment-page-1/#comment-208119 Tue, 20 Jun 2017 19:19:35 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21772#comment-208119 By the way, I find that reading Trevor aloud is worthwhile. I don’t read aloud to my wife very often, but I have read her a few William Trevor stories. I just love the sounds, the depths the words convey. They generally hold such compassion even when they’re being used to strip away someone’s pretensions, delusions, hopes.

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Comment on William Trevor: “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by Trevor Berrett http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/19/william-trevor-the-piano-teachers-pupil/comment-page-1/#comment-208117 Tue, 20 Jun 2017 19:16:25 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21772#comment-208117 Yes, you do need to get around to “The Piano Tuner’s Wives”! I’d even recommend listening to Trevor read it himself once you’ve read it, because he’s an exceptional reader of his sometimes syntactically strange (but wonderfully so) prose. It starts at the 23:05 mark here:

“Violet married the piano tuner when he was a young man. Belle married him when he was old. . . .”

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Comment on William Trevor: “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by David http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/19/william-trevor-the-piano-teachers-pupil/comment-page-1/#comment-208115 Tue, 20 Jun 2017 18:39:08 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21772#comment-208115 Her questioning those past relationships is a bit of a mystery. I agree with you that I don’t see any reason to question her father’s motivations, so the fact she does says something about her. With the married lover, I like how we are told about the end of that affair: “there had been painful regret on Miss Nightingale’s side, but, since then, she had borne her lover no ill will, for, after all, there was the memory of a happiness.” We are not told what her regret consists in. Regret for the deception of the man’s wife? Regret for deluding herself that he would ever leave his wife? Regret for wasting time and ending up unmarried? We never find out. (Miss Nightingale reminds me of Mary Jo in Alice Munro’s “Eskimo” and her long term relationship with a supposedly unhappily married man.)
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The idea that the stolen knick-knacks might just be a price she has to pay and pays willingly for the privilege of getting to observe the boy play the piano every week serves nicely as a metaphor for how she views the other two relationships with men, especially the lover. Each time she saw him it cost her a little something personally, but she decided it was a fair price for what she got in return. As for her father, if the chocolates she got from him were bribes, is she bribing the pupil with knick-knacks? She never tries to get any of them back or to hide them so he won’t take more. Perhaps her father knew she was stealing the chocolates and allowed it, as she does, because for him it was a price worth paying as well.
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I really should get around to reading “The Piano Tuner’s Wives”. As I understand it, the two wives of the title are from different generations, just as the three men (well, “males” anyway) here are from three different generations and represent three very different kinds of love in her life. I’m even more curious now to see how deep some of the parallels between these two stories might go.

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Comment on William Trevor: “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” by Trevor Berrett http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/2017/06/19/william-trevor-the-piano-teachers-pupil/comment-page-1/#comment-208109 Tue, 20 Jun 2017 15:47:41 +0000 http://mookseandgripes.com/reviews/?p=21772#comment-208109 Please see my addendum above in the main post. The New Yorker responded to my inquiry via Twitter to say that the piece was one of a few unpublished pieces Trevor had on his desk when he died. They don’t know if he was done with it or if he would have returned to it. I agree with them, though: it’s great as it is.

More importantly, when I asked if some of those other few would be coming, they said “at least one.”

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