Senior year of college, I took a course on Russian literature that I loved. We had to write our final paper on various themes from our favorite short story of the semester. I chose Chekhov’s brilliant “The Lady with the Little Dog,” but I didn’t want to write another generic paper, so I made a request of the professor. What if my paper was a short story, written from the perspective of Gurov’s wife, making her the sympathetic character instead? He thought about it for a moment and said he loved the idea.
I worked hard on my little story and had fun with it, even though I knew it wasn’t a mini-masterpiece. But I was pleased with my effort. When I got the paper back, I got an A–. Overall, my professor liked it, but his closing comment read, “Interesting attempt, Abby. But I do wish that the writing sounded more like Chekhov himself.”
Oh, I thought, OK. So write it more like the greatest short fiction writer who’s EVER LIVED? OK. Sure thing. I’ll get right on that.