Have enough aesthetic and literary knowledge to know what you’re up to. You need not be up to a lot, you just need to know how to do what you’re up to. That way, knowledge and intention can meet, and you will produce a complete compositon. — Colin Foote Burch


Putting things together...

Anton Chekhov's Short StoriesAnton Chekhov’s Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book.

Chekhov compassionately renders prostitutes, impoverished peasants, and overworked youngsters. As he advised in one of his letters (available in this edition), he strives for an objective presentation of characters and their situations. But his intentions cannot be dodged: he wants you to have compassion on his characters. After any sensitive reading, the reader will have compassion.

His shortest stories offer a stern retort to those who would malign today’s “flash fiction.” The earliest story here is also one of the shortest: “The Chameleon,” which provides a sort of slapstick by way of dialogue. It’s only an early work by someone who would become a great artist — slapstick probably isn’t considered the goal of capital-a Art. Yet the story’s structure and quick, effective characterization show Chekhov knew the craft well enough to take it somewhere interesting, as he did.

The letters and the critical articles in the back are not oriented toward the usual lit-crit of Norton Critical Editions. Rather, they seem almost exclusively focused on the craft of writing. At least that’s how I took them.

I wish I could read Chekhov in Russian!

View all my reviews

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