Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Lady with the Dog

Colum McCann, the author of the novel Let the Great World Spin, did a “Talk of the Town” piece for the September 12 issue of The New Yorker. Actually, there were a number of “Talks” in the issue by fiction writers—among them Lorrie Moore, Zadie Smith, Jonathan Safran-Foer, and Edwidge Danticat. McCann’s piece, “Dessert,” was about an Upper East Side woman ordering a piece of chocolate cake the day after the towers fell. “It arrived in front of her, and the waiter spun away. A slice of two-layer cake. Dark chocolate. A nipple of cream dolloped on top. A sprinkling of dark powder. The woman was elegant fiftyish, beautiful. She touched the edge of the plate, brought it toward her.” In an odd way McCann’s vignette recalls Chekhov’s famous story "The Lady with the Dog." McCann is intruding into the life of the woman he observes in much the same way that Chekhov’s unhappy Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov spots Anna Sergeyevna with her dog. McCann conscripts the woman into his story just as Dimitri brings Anna into his life, extracting her from history for the sake of both his fantasy and his guilty desires.  “I still have no idea—after a decade of wondering—whether I am furious at the woman and the way she ate chocolate cake, or whether it was one of the most audacious acts of grief I’ve seen in a long, long time.” Chocolate lovers, lovers of Chekhov’s great story (set in Yalta over a hundred years ago) and all those who had the luxury to hear their own hearts beating back in the days following 9/11, when the skies were overcast with dust, should take note of McCann’s little jewel.  


  1. As an admirer of Chekhov's story, I will have to check out McCann's vignette. Thanks for bringing this to notice. And as a writer of erotic fiction myself, I've often felt that Lady with the Dog (which I read under the title Lady with Lap Dog) served as a kind of template for many of my own stories of men and women meeting and changing each other forever.

    By the way, I read and really enjoyed your novel Seven Days in Rio, and just posted a long review on my own blog.

  2. Thanks irvoneil. I will look forward to reading your post about Seven Days and thanks for bringing to my attention the other translation of the Chekhov story's title. Warm Regards, Francis

  3. You're welcome, Francis. I hope you find my review interesting.--Irv


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