Thursday, July 20, 2006




Treasure! The collection of Anton Checkov's works, bought at a library sale in Stowe, Vermont.

This book was an incredible find, yet there is something sad about seeing such a treasure stamped with the word, DISCARDED. This edition of Checkov's works was published in 1929.

Checkov, a graduate of medical school, wanted to write stories that looked at people and situations somewhat objectively. His lack of personal commentary (and judgment) combined with his keen insights into the human psyche made him a great storyteller.

My favorite of his stories so far is "La Gigale." It is about an artistic, although flighty, young woman named Olga who marries a man of science, Dymov. At first Olga sees beyond Dymov's meek demeanor and recognizes his greatness: his dedication, intelligence, and compassion. Later, she tires of him and has an affair with one of her artist friends. Dymov knows of the affair but wants to keep the marriage together. In this pivotal scene, Olga has the opportunity to make things right, but she fails to recognize the potential for transformation:

One evening when [Olga] was preparing to go to the theater, she was standing before the pier-glass when Dymov, clad in a dress-coat and a white tie, came into her bedroom; he smiled meekly and as formerly he looked his wife joyfully straight in the eyes. His face beamed.

"I have just been defending my thesis," he said, sitting down and stroking his knees.

"Defending?" Olga Ivonovna asked.

"Ogo!" he laughed, and he stretched his neck in order to see his wife's face in the mirror, as she was still standing before it with her back towards him arranging her hair. "Ogo!" he repeated. "Do you know it is very probable I shall be offered the post of professor's substitute on general pathology. It looks very like it."

It was evident by his delight and his beaming face that if Olga Ivanovna had shared his happiness and triumph he would have forgiven her everything, the present and the future, and he would have forgotten everything, but she did not understand what the post of professor's substitute or general pathology meant; besides, she was afraid of being late for the theatre and said nothing.

He sat for two minutes, smiled culpably and then left the room.
.........................................................


He sat for TWO MINUTES! That's a long time to sit silently, waiting for someone to respond favorably to a grace extended. He has been direct, looking her staight in the eyes and expressing his intimate joy. But she keeps her back to him, experiencing his presence obliquely, through the mirror. I love the detail of his stroking his knees, the part of the body that most strongly, I think, suggests humility (as we get on our knees when we pray or give homage to another). Also the detail, "...he left the room," a physical and psychological distancing.

I look forward to reading all of Checkov's works. How strange that I had to go all the way to Vermont to discover him.
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Dreaming

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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken

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Fave Painting: Eden

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Fave Painting: The Three Ages of Man and Death

Fave Painting:  The Three Ages of Man and Death
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The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

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