Cheating at Canasta

Very Quick Thoughts   Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor, Thorndike Windsor Paragon [Largeprint] 2008, 295 pages

These are somber contemplative stories; mostly about people on the fringe reminiscing about their past lives and/or wondering how they ever got to where they are now.   Many themes of relationships, regrets, communication or the lack thereof.   Sparse emotions, quiet despair, passive inevitability.

Not recommended for anyone looking for a pick-me-up!

The writing is solid. I read this book solely based on a recommendation from another blogger, Verbivore and comments on one of her monday-reading-notes posts.    I was also inspired by Kim the Sophisticated Dork who had been questioning if blogging had ruined serendipitous book findings and I surmised it was just different now.    So to prove my point, I saw the recommendation for Trevor, checked his worth in the ratings of goodreads (very high, by the way), clicked over to my library’s holdings, and scooped this one up immediately and started to read.   I am finding that I really really love short story collections but I also have difficulty reviewing. I can’t remember enough to chat about each and just can’t decide on an a suitable approach.

Unfortunately, I struggled through some of the phrasings and references which I attribute to the Irish/English settings and culture of the author.   If you like plants and flowers, almost all the stories mention such in scenery descriptions.   I did see that more than a few of the stories used the word ‘muddle’.

MUDDLE: “He was the sharper of the two in argument and always had been; but he listened, and even put her side of things for her when she became muddled and was at a loss.” – confused, bewildered, mixed up, perplexed, baffled.

I also felt at odds with the time setting of these stories.  I sensed a less-technological age and then a character would have a cell-phone and I would feel an unwanted time-shift jolt.   I do not think the author meant for that to happen.

RATING:  Three slices of pie.

For CHALLENGE:   Twenty in Eleven

William Trevor:  “The greatest living writer of short stories in the English language.”  – The New Yorker


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10 thoughts on “Cheating at Canasta

  1. Michelle

    I^m with you on reviewing short story collections. I definitely enjoy reading story collections, but I find it hard sometimes to turn that into a decent review. I’m hoping Trevor will inspire me when I finish his A Bit on the Side. But I’ve put Cheating at Canasta on my list, thank you!

  2. Sometimes when I read Irish literature, the syntax suggests a less-than-modern setting, but then technology makes me change my mind. Perhaps it’s an Irish thing, something about the rather lyrical way they construct sentences that puts you in mind of a time in the past? Not having read this book, I don’t know if that’s the case here or not.

    1. I had to turn the book in to the library so I can’t share a passage or two. Syntax IS probably it. Usually, it was conversations – they way they put things that was just ODD to me. “You’re on to England, then.” for example. We would say ‘Off to England’, right? This is from memory so I could be grasping.
      I would not say lyrical comes to mind for this collection but I would be OK to try more WT.

  3. Oh my, I so get what you’re saying about chatting about short story collections! Of course, I get all tongue-tied talking about full-length novels, too, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, huh? 😛

    1. Oh, I don’t think ‘fun’ is the word you are looking for. 🙂 They really do beg for discussion, though. I would love to have someone explain a few to me.

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