The Kiss and Other Stories

11.24.2012

Shishkin DozVDubLesu 114
[I believe I read this 1915 edition, translated by R. E. C. Long, courtesy of Google books.]

Anton Chekhov was a 19th century Russian author well known for his short stories.  The Kiss and Other Stories contains fourteen of these, each like a vignette of a scene from Russian country and city life.  "The Kiss" is about soldier whose life is changed - or so he thinks - by an accidental kiss with a complete stranger; "Verotchka" is a story of unrequited love; and "The Runaway" is about a boy's trip to the local hospital.  "The Muzhiks" is the longest story, detailing poverty and life in a Russian peasant village.

There is a lot to be learned from these stories, even if you have already studied Russian history.  Most of the stories were somber, either depressing and/or very thought-provoking.  It made me think how it is easy to do the right thing when your needs are met, but if your life is a continuous desperate attempt at survival, your entire worldview and moral standards are easily affected.  You can read about some of these characters and feel you'd never act the way they do, but the fact is, few of us could even imagine what it is to be born into those kinds of circumstances, let alone what we would be like if we were.

4 out of 5 stars. 



Four (more) short reviews

11.12.2012

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane
The Remains of the Day 
Kazuo Ishiguro
4 out of 5 stars

This award-winning novel is about an English butler, Mr. Stevens, who takes a road trip in the English countryside.  Though he attempts to keep a travelogue, he ends up reminiscing about his father, his friendship with housekeeper Miss Kenton, and his former employer's role in the Inter-War/WWII era.

The book is pretty good, but I enjoyed the Anthony Hopkins film more.  His portrayal of Mr. Stevens is really moving, whereas book!Stevens is harder to like or understand.

 
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Washington Irving
5 out of 5 stars

I knew the story already (from the Disney animated film), but it was a delight to read the original!  Ichabod is a rather egotistical, materialistic guy in the book, so one hardly feels sorry for him.

 
A Passage to India
E. M. Forster
 2 out of 5 stars

This book was really well-written, with some interesting depictions of the British Raj, but that's about it.  I didn't like the characters much, including but not limited to Mrs. Moore.  (By comparison, Conrad's Heart of Darkness was a lot deeper and more vague, yet somehow easier to understand.) I'm not exactly sure what was the point of A Passage to India, although as an illustration it is ok.


Kafka's Selected Shorter Writings
from ManyBooks.net
 5 out of 5 stars

This is a nice read for Kafka fans or readers who just want to sample his work.  The stories are very short (in fact, I believe the Gatekeeper story is an excerpt from The Trial).  Recommended if you have a half-hour to spare!