This week The Puritan (puritan-magazine.com) published the second story I've focused on Anton Chekhov (the story is called "Chekhov's Confession.") In this story, Chekhov tells the tale of encountering Dmitri and Alexei Karamazov on the penal island of Sakhalin, where Dmitri was dispatched for killing in his father in The Brothers Karamazov, and where Chekhov wrote one of his most unusual books--a study of conditions on Sakhalin.
If you're scratching your head, Chekhov did write the Sakhalin book, but arranging an encounter with Dmitri and Alexei Karamazov, Dostoevsky's fictional creations, is my idea, and "Chekhov's Confession" is the first chapter of a novel I'm in the process of marketing which is, essentially, a sequel to The Brothers Karamazov.
I wanted to take note of this publication for a few reasons. Obviously, I'd like people to read "Chekhov's Confession" in The Puritan, but I'm also pleased that The Puritan is a Toronto-based publication (hence some of the odd spelling in the text) and it seems to me that our literary culture in North America is something of a single, if variegated, entity, and it ought to be seen as such, particularly in the age of the worldwide web, when we can cross borders so easily.
Key Canadian authors in the American marketplace are, of course, Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro (one of my favorite writers.) There have been many others. For a start in understanding Canadian writers, go back to Edmund Wilson's book O Canada, then fast-forward to Margaret Atwood's Survival. Canadians' themes and sensibilities are pleasingly different from Americans' themes and sensibilities.
But of course we all agree on Anton Chekhov, and I was delighted to see The Puritan introduce my story with a photograph of Chekhov reading to some of his family and friends. Francine Prose (real name, if a bit ironic) wrote a book a few years ago called Reading Like a Writer. She explains as well as anyone why Chekhov was such a master of the short story. He's been a hero of mine for many years, especially because of his singular question, "Gentlemen, why do you live your lives so stupidly?" He's not preachy, but he's acute, succinct, and devastating. My favorite Chekhov story at the moment is "A Boring Story," which is novelistic as Alice Munro's stories are novelistic.
Faulkner once said that if he could write a book in ten pages, he'd do it. Chekhov did it. My story, focusing on his confession, runs longer, but if I can fall somewhere between Chekhov and Faulkner, that's fine with me.
Causes Robert Earle Supports
World Wildlife Fund