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A Good Place To Start

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The Lady with the Dog 1

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Categorization is odious. There is tremendous overlap among genres. These pigeonholes are offered only as a convenience.

Anton Chekhov (1860 - 1904)

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editor July 8th, 2007 01:47 PM PST

Chekhov's short stories are unparalleled for pith, meaning, beauty and emotion in compact form (or any form, perhaps). You can hardly go wrong with any collection of them; if the first doesn't grab you, jump to the next. He wrote many superb ones and few that are not worth reading.

The following is copied in from WIKIPEDIA (www.wikipedia.com):

[Raymond Carver wrote:]
"Chekhov's stories are as wonderful (and necessary) now as when they first appeared. It is not only the immense number of stories he wrote — for few, if any, writers have ever done more — it is the awesome frequency with which he produced masterpieces, stories that shrive us as well as delight and move us, that lay bare our emotions in ways only true art can accomplish.[99]"

Ernest Hemingway, another of Carver's influences, was more grudging, saying: "Chekhov wrote about 6 good stories. But he was an amateur writer".[100] And Vladimir Nabokov once complained of Chekhov's "medley of dreadful prosaisms, ready-made epithets, repetitions".[101] But he also declared The Lady with the Dog "one of the greatest stories ever written" and described Chekhov as writing "the way one person relates to another the most important things in his life, slowly and yet without a break, in a slightly subdued voice."[102]

For the writer William Boyd, Chekhov's breakthrough was to abandon what William Gerhardie called the "event plot" for something more "blurred, interrupted, mauled or otherwise tampered with by life".[103]

Virginia Woolf mused on the unique quality of a Chekhov story in The Common Reader:

"But is it the end, we ask? We have rather the feeling that we have overrun our signals; or it is as if a tune had stopped short without the expected chords to close it. These stories are inconclusive, we say, and proceed to frame a criticism based upon the assumption that stories ought to conclude in a way that we recognise. In so doing we raise the question of our own fitness as readers. Where the tune is familiar and the end emphatic—lovers united, villains discomfited, intrigues exposed — as it is in most Victorian fiction, we can scarcely go wrong, but where the tune is unfamiliar and the end a note of interrogation or merely the information that they went on talking, as it is in Tchekov, we need a very daring and alert sense of literature to make us hear the tune, and in particular those last notes which complete the harmony.[104]"

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