“Lady with the Dog” / Anton Chekhov

If you want to get on the slow reading bandwagon, but slow reading sounds just, you know, too slow, then start with some classic short stories.  Short stories are usually less than 30 pages and focus on only a single episode or character.  So, they won’t demand too much of your attention, but they will still give your mind the little workout that it needs.  Think of them like interval training.  They will help you train for marathon reads like War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov.

Anything by Anton Chekhov would be good.  For one, you will finally understand all of those allusions to “Chekhov’s gun.”  That’s because Chekhov sort of set the standard for the short story genre.  “The Lady with the Dog” (also translated “The Lady with the Lapdog”) was published in 1917 and is one of Chekhov’s best known works.  It tells a story of adulterous love not unlike Anna Karenina–but in a lot less words.

The story starts when forty-something Dmitri Gurov notices a cute young thing walking along the seafront of Yalta with her Pomeranian pooch.  He uses this furry pom-pom as an excuse to sidle up next to her and introduce himself.  Then, he falls in love.  Hard.  For the first time in his life.  The woman, Anna Sergeyevna, falls for him, too, and together they have to decide between love or living a lie.

This story will blow your mind with its compassion and psychological insight.  It will also make you think twice about letting strangers pet your dog.

When you’re finished, earn some intertextual extra credit points by reading Ehud Havazelet’s short story “Gurov in Manhattan.”  “Gurov” was published in 2011 in TriQuarterly and selected for The Best American Short Stories 2011.  So, yeah.  It’s good.  Also, it is only eight pages, and you will be so pleased with yourself when you can recognize how one Gurov has been shaped by another.

Incidentally, I don’t know why I’ve got so many Russians on the mind today.  Chekhov?  Tolstoy? Dostoyevsky?  It must be all the snow outside my window.

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