Thursday, August 14, 2008
There's something about Chekhov. I remember reading a review or an essay about him in The New Yorker a long time ago, back when I read The New Yorker (I don't anymore, pretentious jerks ha ha ha), and I remember finding it interesting. But I assumed that Chekhov would be a stuffy old bookish writer whose work I would find boring. And then I began reading, recently, some of Anna Karenina. A sort of fever started in me to consume as much Russian literature as possible. So I bought this small used copy of Chekhov's work, the Signet edition, from my favorite used book shop in Nashville (Books). The first story I read was "The Father." I read it quickly and then I read another story, "Peasants," and I was enthralled by his writing and the portrayals of the Russian people. He has such skill with language and my only regret is that I can't read his work in the original Russian.
At the same time I read A Moveable Feast by Hemingway (an amazing book), and I was very pleased to read his impressions of the Russians. He said of Chekhov that people had told him that Katherine Mansfield wrote great short stories, but once he had read Chekhov, Hemingway realized that Mansfield's stories were the equivalent of an old maid's tales (to recall from memory). One man's opinion. I have not read much Mansfield, but I can say that Chekhov is so widely read for a reason. I love his writing and have bought many more collections of his writing since then.
I'm not a huge fan of the short story genre, necessarily. But if you read his work it feels loosely strung together, a vast mural of the late 19th century Russia. It's quite beautiful.
My favorites so far are "Peasants," "He Understood," "The Dance Pianist,"In Exile," and "A Cure for Drinking."
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