How I became a Chekhov bookworm in the Big Apple

Having arranged a series of three seminars on the short stories of Chekhov, I am making use of every available moment, day and night, to read the assigned stories, lest I disgrace myself at the sessions being conducted by a distinguished Chekhov scholar.

Reading Chekhov on the Subway. A crowded subway car presents many distractions. A man boards, holding a collection of large balloons. Barely visible behind his balloons, he is delivering them to an event somewhere in the city. A boy shins up a pole in the subway car. A cyclist boards. He prefers rail travel to pedaling to his destination. The train leaves the dark tunnel to cross the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn. From the car window, views of the East River, Brooklyn Bridge, and lower Manhattan. Alas, Anton Pavlovich, I am making little headway in reading your short stories.

Reading Chekhov at Work. Forget it. Too many distractions. (On the wall by my desk, a picture of Chekhov.)

Reading Chekhov in Central Park. Soft grass underfoot, a welcome change from the concrete of city streets. I watch a weekend softball game. Beyond the outfield, the glorious Fifth Avenue and Central Park South skyline provided by the Pierre, Sherry-Netherland, Hampshire House, and Essex House hotels. As an early evening sun casts a golden glow over the city, I read aloud in the stands this Chekhov passage: "And he was charmed with the evening, the farmhouses and villas on the road, and the birch trees, and the quiet atmosphere all around, when the fields and woods and the sun seemed preparing, like the workpeople now on the eve of the holiday, to rest, and perhaps to pray...."

Reading Chekhov at a Concert. My brother-in-law and nephew are singing works by Schumann and Stravinsky. As they sing, I pretend to follow the libretto, while surreptitiously reading Chekhov.

Reading Chekhov in Chinatown. I am having lunch at Maria's. Chinese is spoken all around me. At the table, I read aloud passages from Chekhov.

Reading Chekhov at Home. I lie on the couch in my favorite position: horizontal. I am making progress on the assignment.

As you may have guessed, Chekhov is my favorite writer. He understands how difficult life is for most people. He is generous in portraying those who strive to live a better life, even when they may fail. He is modest. He never condemns. He is tender toward those who suffer.

Postscript. I complete the 19 assigned Chekhov short stories and perform creditably at the seminars.

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