75 at 75: Yiyun Li on William Trevor
A special project for 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center’s 75th anniversary, 75 at 75 invites authors to listen to a recording from our archive and write a personal response. Here, Yiyun Li writes about William Trevor’s reading of his story “Kathleen’s Field.” It was recorded live at 92Y on May 22, 1990. Yiyun Li returns to 92Y this Thursday for a reading with Edward P. Jones.
William Trevor is a major influence for me. I learned writing—and writing in English—by reading him. In fact, I would not have become a writer at all had I not discovered his work. In interviews Trevor has said that he writes out of bewilderment, and one does notice, upon meeting him, his curiosity of the world around him. A woman in an orange blouse walking past a restaurant patio, where we had lunch when we first met, caught his attention because there was something incomprehensible about her, at least in that moment. “Such moments may pass,” he said, though I sensed that often they didn’t. “It could get one into trouble,” he said with a smile. “Disgraceful of an old man to watch a young woman so closely.” Watching closely—the world and its occupants—is a writer’s job. What’s remarkable about Trevor is that he watches with incomprehension. He does not claim to know the world any better than his readers do.