Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Checkin' Out Chekhov

I know this isn't opera or music, but it's something that I enjoy, so here is my find for today:

I love Chekhov's plays, but I had never read any of his prose until I picked up his The Story of a Nobody. It's short (under a 100 pages) and sweet and beautiful. His prose is stunningly poignant; its simplicity has an inherent profundity. I absolutely loved it.

I picked it up to fulfill my Mission101 goal #74: read a book by a Russian author. I didn't really want to suffer through War and Peace or anything and I've always wanted to read Chekhov's prose. They had this little book at my library so I took it out. I finished it in two days.

For some reason, his writing reminds me so much of F. Scott Fitzgerald. They really don't have much in common, but I think it's the way they describe their characters. Their characters are so real that you can imagine them sitting in your living room without causing a stir. They belong anywhere and everywhere -- they are simply people and it is rewarding to probe their depths, or lack thereof.

And I think it's also the feeling that these writers leave with you. At the end of the story, you feel fulfilled, as if you've just discovered some great secret, but you also feel a bit lost, as though something was left unresolved. It results in something nearly perfect with its perfection marred by a single unsettled object. It's like a beautiful room, decorated with much grace and intelligence, with a single painting that is slightly crooked or a vase that simply does not match the style of the room. In a normal situation, the object would be inconsequential, easily overlooked, but amidst the great web of the story, it is essential, irreplaceable. It demands intense attention. The ordinary transforms itself into the unique, the commonplace into the singular. The phenomenon is not new to me, but it continues to shock me; just as good writing can again and again wriggle itself into my innermost heart and stun me with its brilliance.

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