Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Five best books with new ways of portraying lives

Lyndall Gordon's most recent book Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds is now available in paperback.

For the Wall Street Journal Gordon named a five best list of books with new ways of portraying lives, including:
Reading Chekhov
by Janet Malcolm (2001)

This is a brilliant fusion of reading, biography and travel. Malcolm follows Chekhov's footsteps from one Russian setting to another. Her positioning in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Yalta is designed to illuminate the extent to which place determines the fate of Chekhov's characters. Arriving in a run-down and almost deserted Yalta, she draws the reader into the remoteness from urban culture that Chekhov experienced when tuberculosis exiled him to this place in his last years. His stories and plays project a futile yearning for "Moscow" in intelligent beings who are stuck in the provinces. From Yalta, Malcolm looks back to successive landscapes in Chekhov's career, including his re-done dacha near Moscow. It's largely fake but promoted by an insistent guide. With amusing discernment Malcolm points to a parallel fake in six other biographies with questionable legends of Chekhov's death. Malcolm, instead, is gifted with the dazzling acumen to seek out the "kernel" of Chekhov's character in his own authentic words.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue