Friday, September 2, 2011

45/365 The Kiss by Anton Chekhov

Now this I can handle.

I really like Chekhov.  Even though my first real exposure to him was a painful college production The Cherry Orchard - and I've hated many a writer for less. (Question: Why have I never seen an even halfway good college play?  They've been universally agonizing.  I just don't understand.)

I like a lot of plot, so I don't understand why I genuinely enjoy his stories and plays.  It might be because the handful of Chekhov I've read felt... relatable, I guess.  The feelings he talks about make sense to me.  And I enjoy the stories enough not to mind when I miss the deep meaning.  Which is always nice.

Anyways, this story was about a guy named Ryabovich, "a short, somewhat stooped officer in spectacles, with whisker's like a lynx's."

For reference:

That is a lynx.  Poor Ryabovich.  Lynxes (which is the most awkward plural I ever saw) are apparently a medium-sized wildcat.  It's also the national animal of Macedonia and you can't hunt them.  The Iberian variety iS going extinct.  I'm wondering if lynxes as a genus or whatever are particularly known for eating or maiming humans in interesting ways, but wikipedia is disappointingly silent on the subject, and I'm too lazy to read about every different type of lynx to really find out.

But! To return from this delightful tangent!

I think the reason I liked this is because if I were a stooped, short, unfortunately whiskered, lonely young Russian who got kissed by mistake (which - surprise! - is what happens in the story) I would feel and behave the same way.   Even though I'm not a whiskered Russian soldier, I (cliche! cliche!) really relate to a lot of his feeeeeelings.  He's awkward, he envies people for the easy way they start mixing and talking with one another, his unattractiveness makes him sad.  He's delighted when he begins to believe that he can marry and have a happy, normal life - he's crushed when his illogical, barely-formed daydreams don't happen.
I love how sharp Chekhov is.  The officers have been asked to tea by a local family, and asked more because the family knows they ought to ask than because they want to.  When they put on a good show to make the evening pleasant, Ryabovich becomes more and more "attracted by this insincere but splendidly disciplined family."  I mean! I just love that sentence. How many people like that have you met?  I've spent hours with that family!
I also love the description of Lieutenant Lobytko - "renowned in the brigade for his peculiar ability to divine the presence of women at a distance".

CONCLUSION: Good, good, good.  It had a kind of bright, bitter taste of truth to me.  And that I like.

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