Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Chekhov. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chekhov. Show all posts

10 April, 2017

Anton Chekhov, "The Party"

The story was written in 1888 and is divided into five parts. It's told mostly from the viewpoint of Olga Mihalovna. She's seven months pregnant. She and her husband, Pyotr Dmitritch are having a large dinner party that lasts well into the night. She observes her husband's fake behavior of smiles, commanding voice, and charming of the young girls. Olga knows it's in service of his work, but she's become sick of dealing with it and when its directed toward her, it is just too much. She works herself into a frenzy and ends up losing the baby. After she's recuperated somewhat and "...nothing mattered to Olga Mihalovna now." Her husband pleads, "Why didn't we take care of our child?"

This story shows how our lives are political and fake and everyone has secrets and some people get carried away and allow their power to exert an inordinate amount of influence.

The version I own was translated by Constance Garnett.

I'm now interested, because of a mention in the story, in Mikhail Saltykov Shchedrin, a satirist, 1826-1889.  Olga's uncle lectures her about her husband. "The husband of his wife, with a few paltry acres and the rank of a titular who has had the luck to marry an heiress! An upstart and a junker, like so many others! A type out of Shtchedrin! Upon my word, it's either that he's suffering from megalomania, or that old rat in his dotage, Count Alexey Petrovitch, is right when he says that children and young people are a long time growing up nowadays, and go on playing they are cabmen and generals till they are forty."

02 August, 2015

Anton Chekhov, "St. Peter's Day"

On the first day of hunting in Russia, June 29th, two troikas set off with eight men and two dogs each for quail hunting. An attempt was made to leave behind Egor's brother, Mikhei. However, he catches up and insists on going. He brings up some jealousy of Egor about the young doctor who does not even know how to hunt and doesn't particularly want to go. Mikhei thinks that Egor has forced him to go along so that the young doctor will not be left alone with Egor's wife. A ninety-year old man, Bolva, is invited but he hunts alone and is the most successful; however, they leave him behind for a certain death. "Well, the hell with him!" The young doctor drinks too much and falls asleep. Egor assumes that the doctor has run off to be with his wife. He rushes home only to find someone else underneath the bed. This is a funny story as well; however, it is really a satire on class, jealousy, mistrust, over indulgence of alcohol and marriage in nineteenth-century Russia. "St. Peter's Day" is included in the newly published collection, The Prank: The Best of Young Chekhov, of early Chekhov stories. This collection is translated by Maria Bloshteyn. The story was first published in 1881 in a journal titled The Alarm Clock.

01 August, 2015

Anton Chekhov, "Artists' Wives (Translated...from the Portuguese)"

Well, the first story in the just published volume, The Prank, of early, earliest, Anton Chekhov short stories is hilarious. Alphonso Zinzaga, a novelist is hungry, very hungry, so he goes around his hotel building searching for something to eat. At each apartment he finds an artist, either a painter, a singer, or an actor in the throes of some sort of argument with his wife. Of course, all the artists are men and their wives are long suffering enablers. All of the artists have the same patron, Count Barabanta-Alimonda," who does not seem to be of much support. The narrator, Alphonso Zinzaga, realizes that his wife thinks his novel, she mistook it by being written by someone else, is "the dumbest thing I've ever read." He calls her a "brainless duck" and storms out of the house. She knows that he'll return because she is his free manuscript copier. All of the wives help their husbands either as models, cooks, copyists or nursemaids. One wife breaks a sculpture and then poisons herself out of shame.

Alphonso's wife reads a story, a miscellany, in the newspaper about another wife who is basically starved by her husband and then when she is a "beanpole" and not right in her mind, he finds her "completely unsuitable for married life." Finally Zinzaga advises women not to marry artists. "Don't you go marry an artist!"

The short story is supposedly about artists of all sorts in Portugal but the novel written by the protagonist, Zinzaga, in the story is "taken directly from Russian life." Each vignette, of the short story, featuring an artist, musician, actor or painter shows and exaggerates the arrogance of artists. The wives suffer and have much demanded of them while the artists do nothing but practice their craft and hope for food or medical attention.

In Russia in March of 1881, Alexander II, was murdered in the streets of St. Petersburg. Censorship was strongly enforced and expanded. "Artists' Wives (Translated...from the Portuguese)" is a satirical story about poor artists, male artists, in late nineteenth-century Russia but when Chekhov wanted to publish a collection of his stories, they were censored. However, they had each been published separately in various journals and newspapers. This short story would be a wonderful stage play.

27 September, 2013

Anton Chekhov, "The Looking Glass"

First published at the end of 1885, "The Looking Glass" opens with a young woman full of yearning to be married, "dreaming day and night of being married." She envisions the young man she'll marry, "...the smile and soft, charming expression of someone's eyes." He's generic and no one in particular. And the future she sees is extremely bleak and followed by the death of her husband and, "Out of a brood of five or six one was sure to die.".

Themes for me in this story are that sometimes there is lack of hope and even worse there is no reason to have hope. Hope that one's life will improve or that one will be happy. Death always waits. And, the concern over choosing the correct or right path which often has to be done but really still leads to just one conclusion, death. And, so we see Nellie saying, "Why is it, what is it for?...And all the previous life with her husband seemed to her a stupid prelude to this." All that worry and concern and fear and life still ends in death. The two mirrors reflect back on each other creating a seemingly endless reality. At the beginning of the story, her eyes are half-closed and she's seeing in her mind's eye the man she wishes to marry and at the end of the story she sees herself in one mirror and the other has fallen to the floor.

 The story is just seven pages long and told in a 3rd person omniscient but limited POV. It is like an omniscient viewpoint but only into the mind of Nellie. Maybe it is really just a super close 3rd person POV?

21 November, 2011

Anton Chekhov, "The Beauties"

What a nice story. Some things I come away with are the ideas about once the boy has seen ultimate beauty he feels there is nothing to look forward to. And, like in the movie, As Good as it Gets, beauty makes people want to be better as when the boy wanted to say something as extraordinary as Masha. Also, the sadness when we realize or feel that nothing else can possibly compare and it's all down hill from here, so to speak. The scene with the horses thrashing wheat going around in circles as though his life will now be redundant because he's seen the ultimate beauty but then in the second scene his attitude has matured and he realizes that it's a whole package--all of a person's features--that make a lovely countenance and that each feature need not be perfect.

The story is divided into two scenes spaced some time apart. There is no real plot but both times the boy is on his way somewhere. The first time with his grandfather and the second time, I believe he is by himself. The story is mostly revelations the boy has about beauty and his ideas mature by the end of the story.

21 March, 2010

Chekhov, "Neighbors"

Read Chekhov's story, "Neighbors," which is an example, according to Jauss, of a "complication creating climax." The conflict occurs in the first sentence, "Pyotr Mihalitch Ivashin was very much out of humour: his sister, a young girl, had gone away to live with Vlassitch, a married man." The story continues with the brother's anger diminishing and him becoming less and less capable of taking any action. He lies twice to avoid confrontation and tells his sister, "You have done well." The story ends with Ivashin claiming that "...nothing could ever set it right." The story starts with a conflict and falls steadily as Ivashin talks himself out of taking any action. He's petrified because he doesn't know what to do even though at one point he entertains some options. The complication creating climax is one in which no change has taken place in the protagonist and, in fact, he manages to strengthen his impotence which will, no doubt, cause him conflict in the future.

20 March, 2010

Chekhov, "Terror," Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried," and David Jauss

Read Chekhov's short story, "Terror," which, according to David Jauss, is an example of a "temporary or relapse climax." This is one of Chekhov's most common endings. Characters change temporarily but revert to their previous conditions. Jauss's article is in the March/April 2010 issue of The Writer's Chronicle.

In "Terror," the friend tells in 1st person POV Silin's story but it is the friend who changes as result of Silin catching the narrator and Silin's wife together. Silin, at the conclusion, still does not "understand life."

Listened to Tim O'Brien's twenty year-old story, "The Things They Carried," read by Dylan Baker on the radio program, Selected Shorts, performed at Symphony Space in NY.

18 March, 2010

Amy Bloom, "A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You," Charles E. May and David Jauss essays

Read an interesting article on Charles May's blog, "The Beginnings of the Modern Irish Short Story: William Carleton."

The concept of "external climaxes" illuminated in Jauss's essay excites me because, although, I've intuited this to be my favorite type of ending, I never had a name for the sort of climax that happens for the reader more than, if not totally, than for the protagonist. Jauss states about "The Little Joke," "Stories of this sort are often sketch-like in their stasis, but though the characters may not change, our perceptions of them, and perhaps of ourselves, does, and the result is a conclusion as satisfying as that of any plotted story." from the March/April 2010 edition of Writer's Chronicle.

Also read Amy Bloom's story, "A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You." A mother's daughter faces gender reassignment surgery while, Jane, the mother, meets a man. The story is written in present tense, omniscient.

17 March, 2010

Chekhov, "The Witch," Amy Bloom, "The Story," and David Jauss

Submitted my story, "Vera, Vera" to the very helpful reviewers at Zoetrope Virtual Studio.

Read Amy Bloom's story, "The Story," included in her collection, A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You. "The Story" is written in 1st person POV and included amongst the story itself are the narrator's musings about the details of the lives of the people the story is based on and her considerations to make the story more readable or literary. At one point, the narrator asks the reader, "Should I describe him as tall and blond...?" All mixed together in the story are--ultimately about a married couple who lose an infant boy to flu--real life characters, fictional devices, the narrator and the writer. It is an excellent example of metafiction.

Read Chekhov's "The Witch" which is an example, according to Jauss, of a story with an "omitted climax." The story just stops. This one, in particular, ends with a punch in the nose, but no one has come to any conclusion or changed or had an epiphany. The story just ended.

14 March, 2010

Chekhov, "Misery" and David Jauss

"Misery," a short story by Chekhov that appears to have a resolution for Iona but it's not a person to whom he finally gets to tell his troubles to but his horse. First a military officer is rude to Iona and then a group of three partying cads give Iona a cuff on the neck. David Jauss gives this story as an example of one that has a "false climax." Iona tells his horse about his son so he tells of it but it is to a horse and not a person with whom he speaks.

Iona's son, Kuzma, has recently died while ill in the hospital and Iona has not had an opportunity to speak of it to anyone. Iona has no one to share his suffering or to even hear that he is suffering. "His son will soon have been dead a week, and he has not really talked to anybody yet....He wants to talk of it properly, with deliberation...."

"Misery" was written in 1886. It is only a little over nine pages. Told in third-person point of view and present tense.

Wikipedia page about Chekhov
Eldritch Press site with full texts of all Chekhov's stories
another site devoted to literature, page about Chekhov
Britannica Encyclopedia page about Chekhov
Creighton web page, Nebraska Center for Writers, about Chekhov with more links

13 March, 2010

Chekhov, "Anyuta" and David Jauss

Short story by Chekhov, "Anyuta," is an example, according to David Jauss, of a story with an "echo ending," simply meaning that the story ends the way it began. A resolution had been put forth by Stepan but was then retracted by Stepan. About 1/3 into the story the protagonist, Anyuta tells us that this routine to her life has already occurred five times. "In the six or seven years of her wanderings from one furnished room to another, she had known five students like Klotchkov." So, the reader is not anticipating much change to Anyuta.

Another example of an "echo ending" is "In a Strange Land." Champoun, once the tutor to Kamyshev's children, is now basically held hostage because Kamyshev purports to have lost Champoun's passport so that he cannot travel home and so the insulting abuse by Kamyshev begins again as at the outset of the story. It is 6 pages long.

12 March, 2010

Chekhov, "The Chorus Girl" and David Jauss

Read Chekhov's, "The Chorus Girl," keeping in mind David Jauss's essay in which he discusses endings. This story, he says, is an example of a "reverse epilogue." When the reader thinks the story ending is going to jump into the future, it instead reverts to the distant past--which reiterates the current storyline--of the protagonist. In this story, the chorus girl, after relinquishing all of her jewelry to a scorned wife, remembers that she's been "beaten...for no sort of reason" in the past. She's not changed and the reader can only assume she's going to continue this pattern.

10 March, 2010

Chekhov, "A Story Without an End" and David Jauss

Re-read Chekhov's story, "A Story Without an End." According to the David Jauss article, "Returning Characters to Life: Chekhov's Subversive Endings," this story has an anti-epilogue. The last 2 1/4 pages of the story are one-year into the future of the story; however, there is no conclusion and, in fact, the narrator asks, "How will it end?"

The story is written in 1st person POV and past tense. We don't really learn much about the narrator but through his observances we experience the tremendous agony--although at least twice the narrator accuses Vassilyev of posing--of Vassilyev over the death of his wife. One year later he is cavorting in the parlour with two women.

It was fun to read this story again after reading Jauss's paragraph about anti-epilogues. Next lesson is "reverse epilogue."

18 December, 2009

Chekhov, "Betrothed"

Read "Betrothed" by Chekhov, 3rd person POV, written in 1903, his last story. It is about Nadya, engaged to Andrey, encouraged by Sasha to turn her life upside down. He didn't approve of people doing nothing as he accused Nadya, her mother as well as her grandmother. Nadya moves away to escape her impending betrothal which has begun to weigh heavily on her, she receives an education, returns home and Sasha dies.

Received my 4th critique from Zoetrope Virtual Studio. They have all been very helpful. My score, with the first 3, averaged "very good" and the 4th review lowered my score to "good." I'm just posting these "scores" for later reference and interest. I need anything I can grab to boost my energy to continue the work.

12 December, 2009

Frederick Reiken and Anton Chekov

Read a great article by Frederick Reiken in the December 2009 issue of The Writer's Chronicle entitled, "The Legacy of Anton Chekhov." His list of Chekhovian techniques, paraphrased. 1. attention to details of psyche 2. structured 3. not much exposition 4. no judgements of characters, authentic display 5. precision 6. tone that is not flamboyant or stylized 7. psychological 8. no neat resolution

And, this quote Reiken takes from a 1888 letter Chekhov wrote to his publisher/editor, Alexis Suvorin: "You are right in demanding that an artist should take an intelligent attitude to his work, but you confuse two things: solving a problem and stating a problem correctly. It is only the second that is obligatory for the artist."

It is an obvious point but I forget that was not the case in the late 19th century.

From page 27 of the Dec. 2009 issue, "Again, the only requirement of the author, in Chekhov's pedagogy, is that of being clear with regard to the parameters of the situation in which the protagonist is involved. In short, a Chekhov story requires, first and foremost, an alliance with the experience of the character. This is indeed what it means to show, don't tell, as a Chekhovian story must show us how a character acts and reacts and then allow us to make our own judgments."

Submitted my story, "His Parents and My Parents" to the Zoetrope Virtual Studio for reviews.

06 December, 2009

Chekhov, "The Album," "The Schoolmaster," and "Ladies"

Read 3 Chekhov stories, "The Album," "The Schoolmaster," and "Ladies." All written in 3rd person point-of-view between 1884-1886. Fyodor in "The Schoolmaster," preparing himself on the eve of the fourteenth celebration dinner for all the schoolmasters, near death yet unexpectedly shows up at the dinner complaining about laxness of the recent examinations of which his students had made more mistakes than he found acceptable. When Fyodor hears Bruni praise him and claim Fyodor's family will be provided for Fyodor realizes that his death is soon upon him and that everyone knows.

Another character named Fyodor, this time the director of elementary schools, is the main character in "Ladies." When a teacher Fyodor supervises loses his voice, Fyodor feeling magnanimous, offers a secretarial position to Vremensky. All seems solved until Fyodor's wife, the wife of the mayor, the governor, and others recommend Polzuhin for the position so that Fyodor has to rescind his offer to Vremensky.

Kraterov issues a poorly memorized speech and presents an album prepared by the titular councillors to Zhymyhov, the civil councillor. Zhymyhov sheds momentary tears. His superficial jubilation is short-lived and he thinks it entertaining when his children dismantle and vandalize the album.