Archive for January, 2010
“I’m crazy about Chekhov”, Woody Allen once remarked. “I never knew anyone that wasn’t.” Today, on Chekhov’s 150th birthday, that statement rings truer than ever. Much has been written about the enduringly modern quality of Chekhov’s work, and with good reason. He is one of the most frequently cited influences of contemporary writers, and it is possible to argue that echoes of his brevity, impressionism, and disregard for traditional plot resonate through the majority of modern literary fiction and drama.
Chekhov’s genius is not limited to his plays and stories. He was a prolific letter-writer, and his correspondence offers a tantalising glimpse into his revolutionary approach to aesthetics. He often offered pieces of advice to other writers, and several have since hardened into accepted principles of writing. The most famous of these is commonly known as Chekhov’s Gun, which he defined in a letter to Lazarev-Gruzinsky, his one-time co-writer, in November 1889: “one should not put a loaded rifle onto the stage if no one is thinking of firing it,” he wrote. “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one, it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” The essence of the metaphor is clear: economy is everything. Read the rest of this entry »