Monday, October 22, 2012

We shall rest. We shall rest. We shall rest.

I realize that for the last couple of weeks I've read little aside from Chekhov: a volume of his short stories, the last hundred pages or so of his Collected Letters, and most recently his four full-length plays, "The Cherry Orchard," "Uncle Vanya," "Three Sisters" and "The Seagull." His plays, if you've not read them, are remarkable. If you're a writer, you owe it to yourself to read them through, not just to see them performed (I think you can find well-cast productions of all of them on youtube, likely violating copyrights like nobody's business), because there's something about seeing the language on the page that gives one (me, at least) a better sense of how the writing is put together as writing.

Like I say, these plays are remarkable things, full of vitality and motion and insight and yet Chekhov has managed, in each of them, to bring all motion to a complete halt at the end, to present us with a moment of stasis in which we've no choice but to ask ourselves what just happened, unable to move forward until we've answered that question. At least, that's where the plays leave me.

Which means that I have a strong urge right now to not read or write another word for, say, a year while I sit very still and consider Chekhov's four major plays. They really do deserve the time, and I really ought to just start over reading again at the beginning, and devote hour upon hour to the study of craft and the interpretation of meanings. But I won't, because life is short and I have too many other things to read and I'm an impatient fellow, I guess. If there's an afterlife, I share Borges' hope that it's in the shape of a library. I'll re-read everything when I'm dead, is what I'm saying.

Instead of meditating over the brilliant plays of Anton Pavlovich, I'm moving ahead with the readalong of Benito Perez Galdos' Fortunata and Jacinta. I'm closing in on the end of Volume II. It's no Chekov, is what I have to say, but it is pleasant enough and Galdos skewers his cast in an admirable and humorous manner. I'm also moving ahead with the first draft of the novel(la) Mona in the Desert, and I'm a bit past the halfway point (I think) of Chapter 8. That puts me about 65% of the way through the draft, I'm guessing. Some good work was done today during lunch. I continue to have no idea at all what this book is supposed to be, but I've gotten past whatever barrier I encountered at the end of Chapter 7 and I think that really, all I have to do is keep an eye on my notes to myself and write the story out until the end and it'll pretty much take care of itself. There's no shortage of ideas, which is a good thing. Maybe I can finish this by the end of the year and finally get working on rewrites to Go Home, Miss America. Which is also no Chekhov, but we do as well as we can, right?


  1. I remember not learning too much from Chekhov until I sat down and actually wrote out some of his stories word for word. I think at the time that was the only way I could force myself to examine each sentence slowly. Even though it was a translation, I picked up on skills that I hadn't gotten from any other writer.

    I'm excited to hear that you are working on Mona in the Desert. It will be an interesting experiment to see if you are excited about it all the way through to the end.

  2. Mighty Reader points out that at this stage in every book I've written, I come up with a difficult technical hurdle to make myself more interested in writing out the end of the narrative, because by now I've solved most of the problems of the book and my energy flags. So I'll be interested to see what flaming hoops I expect myself to jump through on this one.

  3. Maybe Mona really does have to jump through a flaming hoop. Have you thought of that?