This is a quick throw away post that I’m scribbling down before tea. I’ve read quite a lot of Chekhov, from his plays to his short stories, and a month or so ago read a handful of Raymond Carver’s tales from his collection entitled Where I’m Calling From. The connection between the two was quite obvious, from Carver’s own admission of great admiration to manner in which he emulated certain aspects of Chekhov’s style.
Chekhov’s style: what is it? It’s a tendency to depict characters who are at once ciphers and religious icons. Ha! That makes no sense without an explanation. In short: characters who’s passions are powerful and simple, perhaps not apparent to themselves but clear to the reader. Yet in this very transparency and simplicity they become enigmatic, able to evoke powerful responses from us due to the clean way they can cleave straight down into what concerns us.
Moving on – tea’s almost done steeping – Carver took from Chekhov not necessarily these powerful, almost iconographic characters, but rather his simplicity of style, the almost bare bones and humble manner of telling a tale. His characters lack that sense of simplicity that resonates and betrays greater depth (in this reader’s humble opinion), and instead seem to highlight a more petty side of humanity, how jealousy and lust and weakness can drive interactions. I found myself mildly repelled by his short stories, and didn’t finish the collection.
And then I came across Homes’ Music For Torching, and discovered strong echoes of Carver in her novel. Yet no Chekhov! She took Carver’s characters, with their bare lives, their insecurities and passions, and spun them into a dark comedy, over the top and engrossing. Her style was simple, but more sardonic, without that clear power that Carver had inherited from Chekhov.
So – from Chekhov to Carver to Homes, each creating their own influences (who said that? Somebody famous said we create (we being the august society of famous authors) our own influences). Strange trickle down effect!
Ok, enough rambling – time for tea and sandwiches.