Chekhov and the Art of Slow Reading

I’m reading an enormous anthology of Anton Chekhov’s short stories on my Kindle before bed each night.  It’s taking me forever to get through.  The little percentage icon on the bottom right of the Kindle screen only bumps one percent higher every few stories, and it feels like I’ll never get finished.  Meanwhile, other books languish in my to-read queue.images-3

But something wonderful happens when I stick with a mammoth chunk of writing over a long time.  I become absorbed in it.  I develop a genuine sense of the author’s style, language, and aesthetic sensibilities.  I start to understand his quieter ideas because I’m moving slowly enough to notice them.images-2

Chekhov’s short stories aren’t characterized by big plot twists or literary fireworks.  They’re about everyday provoking situations that bring out people’s true selves.  Chekhov writes about a time we don’t remember, about people with whom we may not share a background, but his words strike clear and true.  We see ourselves in his Russian peasants and landed gentry because they are, after all, just people.

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I know that if I were able to blitz through his writing, I would miss things worth savoring.  So, for now at least, I’m content to read slowly, one story at a time, for as long as it takes.  The other books will have to wait.

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