Chekhov is not that Russian Dude on Star Trek...
I've begun "How to Read and Why" by Harold Bloom and I'll admit it's fascinating. I do feel that he makes some quantitative statements that sound like fact but are really opinion. On the other hand, his treatise seems focused on the reader's mortality and the idea of pursuing quality with one's limited time.
The book is broken into 5 sections: Short Stories, Poems, Novels, Plays, and Novels II. In each he surveys selected works of particular authors and displays the quality he perceives therein in the hopes of giving the reader the ability to discern quality in their reading.
My process has been to read the author's works selected prior to reading Bloom's essay in order to be able to directly relate to his interpretation, and also to be able to form my own ideas and contrast them to Bloom's before my perception becomes filtered by his input.
One of the little joys I experienced this weekend was finally cracking that book of Chekhov short stories that's been languishing on my shelf for nearly a year. Just like Boyle and Theroux, I've been meaning to get to it. Heck, it's even edited by one of my favorites, Richard Ford. Just lazy, I guess.
So to keep up with Bloom, I read "The Kiss" and "The Lady with the Dog."
These stories (confirmed by Bloom) seem tragic and hopeless, in a sense that the emotional, momentary decisions of human frailty ultimately turn the soul from pathway to pathway, rather than the idealism and morality that rules the outer person on display to others. Ryabovitch has learned to hope in himself for a short while, that he could find a pleasing woman, seemingly unaware that this hope is based on a fantasy created from an accident. It isn't truth, he's taken a temporal accident and has imbued it with his repressed wishes and found hope. When he returns, he touches the wet hanging sheet and encounters his fear that he will discover the truth about his fantasy. He decides it is easier to repress his hopes and desires inside, while they are still formless and internal rather than face his fear and risk having them dashed in reality, proving that what little hope he had didn't exist in the first place. In his fear he gets to hold on to the tiny hope to which he was accustomed.
And Gurov, well, I haven't completely decided whether he was actually in love with Anna or if his affair with her was different due to his epiphany regarding his mortality. I need to ruminate further. I will say that his relationship with Anna was more about his changing view of himself than it was about her. He was selfish throughout, even in going out of his way to restore their contact, it had little to do with her. That he was willing to face the difficulty that he recognized was just beginning is a glimmer of hope, and yet even it is misplaced as he seeks a normality denied to him by an unhappy marriage and impossible in a relationship based on subterfuge. More on this later, perhaps.
There is great pleasure in these pages. I will have to spend more time there soon.