13 January 2010

Alice Munro and the Case of the Chekhovian Dames

[update: for some reason I originally attributed the New Republic article discussed below to Ruth Gordon rather than Ruth Franklin.]

I adore (adore, I tell you!) the stories of Alice Munro, as anybody who's looked at my bookshelves can attest, and I adore (adore, I tell you again!) the stories of Anton Chekhov, who actually takes up considerably more space on my shelves, but that's just because he wrote hundreds of stories, a bunch of plays, and all in Russian, which means, of course, that I absolutely must own every possible translation just to be able to compare.

Anyway, I discovered (via Scott) that  Ruth Gordon Franklin over at The New Republic has claimed that Munro just writes about women and Chekhov didn't do this and why won't this Munro woman explain herself, eh?  Writing primarily about men is just fine, everybody does that, no need to comment, but writing primarily about women is ... "not necessarily a flaw".  It would be understandable if she were a lesbian, of course, because what else do they know, and anyway those Canadians are ... weird...  And Chekhov, by the way, was neither a Canadian nor a lesbian, though he was a little bit weird, but he was also Russian, and we know what they're like from James Bond movies, so it all makes sense.

Sorry, I'm being deeply unfair in reductio-ing Gordon's ad for absurdum.  There are lots of things I could say about Gordon's premises about gender and writing, about characters and writers, about seeing what you want to see, or about Chekhov's complicated attitudes toward and relationships with women, but I'm really only in the mood to be facetious.  I haven't read any of Munro's or Chekhov's stories for a little while now, so I'm going to go back to them.  Maybe I'll start with this book:

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, the weirdest thing about her column is The idea that Chekhov didn't write about women; not only sort of wrong, it's totally unnecessary in her argument, and seems to detract from the crude Chekhov > Munro note she ends on as well.

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