Goodreads: The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories
This short story collection was my first foray into the works of Chekhov, and my gut reaction is to say that it might be my last. While some of the stories were interesting (often the longer ones), many of them did not seem to have a point—and when they did have a point, it was frequently not compelling.
That is to say, many of them called to mind slice of life writing or vignettes. Chekhov sketches an ordinary scenes or character and that’s that. For instance, one story shows a drunk husband/father yelling irrationally at his wife and son, calling them names, etc. The next morning, he’s sober and trying to be nice to his son, who accepts his words and embraces stiffly. Obviously the reader is supposed to note that the son despises and fears his father because his drunkenness makes him volatile. The end. This is true to life, but I don’t have much more to say about it. The observation that being a mean drunk is bad for your family life is not exactly clever.
The stories were largely in this vein. Some had more overt or larger-reaching points—like the argument that factory owners should be ashamed from profiting off the work of other while they do nothing—but while this might have been more revolutionary an argument of the time of writing, it probably won’t sound too exciting or original to modern audiences.
I’m glad I read this to get a taste of Chekhov’s work, but this collection was not for me. A friend suggests Chekhov’s plays or better, but it’s hard for me to say I’d like to give them a chance after being so disappointed by my introduction to his writing.
2 thoughts on “The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov”
I don’t have too much experience with Chekhov; I think I’ve only read two of his short stories. I wasn’t too keen on “The Lady with the Little Dog” when I read it in undergrad, but if it wasn’t in your particular collection I would recommend the short story “Gusev”. It’s very bleak, yes, but I think Chekhov does a great job in straddling the line between Romantic and Naturalist depictions of nature in it, and it ends with a morbidly beautiful series of images. That and Pavel Ivanovich cuts a memorable figure.
I don’t think there were two bigger contentious types of stories in my MFA in fiction writing program that 1) stories about writers and 2) slice-of-life stories. I honestly think vignettes fail to work for most writers; the only one I’ve seen do well at it is Raymond Carver, whose stories can about 1 1/2 or 2 pages and still pack a punch, even if you just get a setting and a moment.