Bernard MacLaverty and short stories
One of his stories, My Dear Palestrina, is an abiding favourite. It has been just as affecting for me in the versions he has written for radio and television. As a child I went for weekly piano lessons in Loughborough with Mrs Towers. MacLaverty's story taught me the poignancy of that relationship, ranging across an age gap but finding meeting ground in the beauty of art. It is a pitch perfect depiction of the bond between piano teacher and pupil. Curiously, MacLaverty told me how he had never studied the piano himself in that way. Somehow storytellinghad spun him into the truth of that world.
So maybe 'your man' depicted in his new short story 'Trapped' in the latest edition of the Edinburgh Review is not MacLaverty in thin disguise, a lovely tale of a writer on a Friday night in Dublin, effectively kidnapped as a guest by an elderly couple and locked into a fifteenth floor apartment. Somewhere, for sure, he has bent to a festival's whim and stayed as a guest in an organizer's home rather than insisting on a hotel room. I must remember the lesson.
And has he had something like gout, and been locked in a Glasgow lift at a film screening? The 'your man' in 'Trapped Again' has been.
Conceivably both characters are as remote from MacLaverty's own life as the piano teacher and pupil. Whatever. He offers up truth in delicious detail. Matthew McGuire's fine article on MacLaverty's short stories is in the same edition of the Edinburgh Review (Causeway: New Writing from Northern Ireland), placing the short story form in a Northern Irish context. He makes an interesting case, bringing in Frank O'Connor's observation 'that the short story was most prevalent in in societies confronted by instability, fracture and distemper'. That's a curious notion, a society confronted by distemper. I see distemper as a condition associated with dogs. Maybe there's a short story in it somewhere.