“The Piano Teacher’s Pupil”
by William Trevor
from the June 26, 2017 issue of The New Yorker
William Trevor died last November at the age of 88 (see my brief thoughts on his death here). Ever since The New Yorker published his wonderful “The Women” in early 2013 (our lengthy thread on that story here), I’d been hoping against hope that we’d get at least one more story from him, and every week I’d watch the New Yorker’s twitter feed just hoping they would say that the next story was from William Trevor. My hope was dim, and of course when he died I gave it up entirely. But here we are! I even stayed up well past my bed time, refreshing the New Yorker website to get the story and post here as soon as possible. Usually the new magazine and its contents are up at midnight in New York. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen this time, and I eventually had to go to bed. So, I haven’t read the story yet, but I’ve printed it and am off to work with it in my bag.
I’m not yet sure about when this was written (see my update just below — The New Yorker has given some details; see my update below the update — a commenter below has had this story since 2001!). I have a list of what I think are all of Trevor’s works, and this is not on it, so I believe it has never been seen before. And if it is new, how long ago did Trevor write it, or stop writing it? Did he finish it to his satisfaction? Is there an editorial reason we aren’t seeing it until several months after his death? I’d like to know the answers if anyone has any insight.
I love Trevor’s work. It has changed me for the better. I cannot guarantee that will happen to everyone who encounters him, but I’d still be willing to recommend his work to you if you haven’t read him yet.
I reached out to The New Yorker via Twitter and they provided a great response:
And even better, after I asked if more were coming:
In the comments below, Sean McElwee noted that this story was published in the September 2001 issue of BBC Music Magazine. All of our questions about whether Trevor finished it, what he would have done had he lived, etc., are moot. Trevor did publish this story. I’m fascinated that this seems to have slipped past the editors at The New Yorker, in particular because it has been my understanding that William Trevor, like Alice Munro, had a contract granting the magazine the right of first refusal on stories. Maybe that lapsed in 2001? Maybe it was for pieces exceeding a number of words? Maybe it has never existed? Or maybe the magazine declined to publish this piece back when Trevor originally submitted it for publication in 2001 or earlier? I don’t know. We’ll probably never know. But, hey, I’m still glad I came across this story when I did. And now I’m very curious if there are other uncollected Trevor stories that I haven’t found yet.