But the stories of Anton Chekhov, the patron saint of this blog, are even better than I remember. Each story is also a little different from how I remember it: this time around, new details stand out, and different observations resonate with me. I have a copy of Lady With Lapdog that I first read in grad school. I underlined certain things. For example, I underlined the following from the story "Ward Six":
There was a pause. At that moment Darya came out of the kitchen and stopped in the doorway to listen, with an expression of mute grief, her face resting on her fist.Why? Why that bit? I have no idea. It's a nice bit, but I have no idea what particularly struck me back in 1994.
This time, I underlined a new bit, from "Ariadne," which is a story I didn't remember well but might be my new favorite:
Ariadne wanted me to join her in Abbazzia. I arrived there on a bright, warm day. It had been raining and the raindrops still hung on the trees.Of course, I know what I like about it this time: first, I like the audacity with which Chekhov totally dispenses with the journey to Abbazzia. There's no buying the tickets, getting on the boat, being on the boat, blah blah blah. Instead, of all the details to choose to describe arriving in a new place, he picks that one little one about raindrops. And I know what he means. Sometimes you arrive in a new place where it has been raining, but it isn't anymore, it's sunny, and you can't even imagine what that place looks like in the rain. It's a detail about newness and alienation, but it's also beautiful and vivid. There's probably more packed in there, but who wants to pull it apart?
Sometimes a not-so-good piece of writing feels great -- and actually is great -- because it's the right thing for you at the right time. But other stories or novels or poems are so hugely great that they somehow manage to be always new, always surprising, and always just the right thing for whoever you've happened to turn into.
Do you ever reread? What books stand the test of time?