Reading and Writing with Anton Chekhov

Saturdays 10 am - noon PST, February 12 - March 12 (5 weeks)

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A few months before he died, Anton Chekhov told the writer Ivan Bunin that he thought people might go on reading his writings for seven years. "Why seven?" asked Bunin. "Well, seven and a half," Chekhov replied. "That's not bad. I've got six years to live." How can somebody so wrong be so right? After his untimely death from tuberculosis, his body was transported in a train's freezer car designed to carry oysters to those who could afford such luxuries in Moscow. The oysters have spoiled, but the stories are briney-fresh.

Anton Chekhov was that rare thing, the doctor-poet, a man known better in his lifetime (and perhaps in ours) for his plays, but this class might argue that his stories are even greater.

Over the course of five weeks, we will read one or perhaps two stories each week and gather on Saturday from 10 to 12 PST to discuss the story and its development, its place in his body of work, its relation to his life and the history of turn-of-the-century Russia, and his enduring influence on other great writers. We'll begin with his early short anecdotes, followed by his more fully realized short stories, a consideration of his "doctor" stories, and finally, a dive into one of his great "povyesti," the long novella-like stories. We will also compare imitations of his stories by contemporary writers like Joyce Carol Oates and Kevin Brockmeier.

Stories may include "Anyuta," "Little Apples," "Lady with the Pet Dog," "The Grasshopper," "The Kiss," and "In the Ravine."

In addition, there will be an optional creative writing component. There will be writing prompts connected to each of the stories and we will read the stories, in part, the way writers do. Writing is not required, but will be an added opportunity for those interested in developing their own work.

Each week's lecture will be followed by open discussion. Participation in discussions is entirely optional, but the conversations in these book clubs are so good, so funny, and so free-wheeling, you may be tempted to join in.

You do not need to read anything before our first meeting. And if you miss any sessions, no problem: A recording of each session will be sent to all ticketholders automatically.


We recommend you buy this edition of Chekhov's short stories, available from our bookstore partner Phinney Books, so that you have the same page numbers as everyone else during discussions.


Brian Bouldrey is the author of four books of fiction and four books of nonfiction, and he has edited eight anthologies. His most recent work is "Inspired Journeys: Travel Writers in Search of the Muse." He teaches creative writing and literature at Northwestern University and he is the North American Editor of the literacy series Gemma Open Door for Gemmamedia.


Sponsorship funds are available to help make this experience possible if price is a barrier; please apply here.


If you choose to pay $150, you are automatically making a $50 donation to the financial assistance fund. If you pay $200, you are making a $100 donation. Thank you for making this book club accessible to more people.


By Kathryn Rathke