For today, I read some of Anton Chekhov’s short stories. Now, when Dave and I run across “short stories by…” in Top Ten, it creates a bit of a problem. It never gives a definitive list of which ones. And, by that I mean that often there are multiple editions out, ones that have 15 of the author’s stories, ones that have every word that ever dripped out of the author in them, ones that only have 30, et cetera.
For me, I tend to just pick the book that I feel would be the most representative, sometimes all of them, sometimes less. Sometimes it’s about what book of them I can find and about how the book itself looks (if it has microscopic print, I will go for the one with bigger print because, well it’s more pleasant to read that way).
This collection had approximately 30 of Chekhov’s stories in it. He has more. But, I always figure that reading even 20 or 30 of a prolific author’s short stories gives you a fairly decent idea of the author’s work.
Chekhov had quite a few fans in Top Ten. The following authors all listed him: Stanley Crawford, Mary Gaitskill, Allan Gurganus, Kent Haruf, Elizabeth Hay, Ha Jin, Valerie Martin, David Means, Susan Minot, David Mitchell, Stewart O’Nan, Roxana Robinson, Arthur Phillips, Francine Prose, George Saunders, Jim Shepard.
If you like short stories and have yet to read Chekhov, go and read him. His short stories are…simple. But, I say simple and realize it seems like I’m calling them stupid. This is not stupidity. His stories don’t have a lot of adornment. There’s no shiny thing yelling “LOOK OVER HERE WHILE THE MAN IN THE HAT DOES SOMETHING OVER THERE” in order to deliver a twist at the end. There’s no pages and pages of description that doesn’t fit into the story. He’s not as spare as Hemingway, but there’s no part of one of his stories that I read that I felt didn’t need to be there.
Chekhov writes what I call “slice of life” pieces. His characters run the gamut from a young woman who finds her living spaces by serving students until they tire of her to a professor at a college near the end of his life. There’s no pretentious morality about his pieces either. He’s not afraid to say that a character had a child out of wedlock or to have one of his characters detail his infidelity with a neighbor’s wife. But he is discreet. There is no singular tone to his stories either. There’s a similar flavor to all of them, but they didn’t run together at all when I was reading them. And, that’s even more amazing since I was reading on my Kindle and my brain doesn’t always process “classics” as well on Kindle as in print.
Please read Chekhov’s stories.
Dave will be with you for the next two weeks, not because I need him to fill in at the last minute (for once!) but because he is reading a two book series (I think it’s 2 books). See everyone in 3 weeks!