- Paperback: 205 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (October 5, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061990493
- ISBN-13: 978-0061990496
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,244,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Celebrity Chekhov: Stories by Anton Chekhov Paperback – October 5, 2010
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“A high-concept experiment in surreal comedy, that’s also an act of devotion regarding the persistent power of literature.” (L Magazine)
“Nothing short of brilliant. . . . you can plant it proudly on your bookshelf.” (Daily Candy)
“Ben Greenman’s Celebrity Chekhov might be the first literary mashup that actually adds to our understanding of the original work.” (The Very Short List)
From the Back Cover
The immortal stories of Anton Chekhov have long entranced readers with their insights into the universal truths of human behavior . . . but you've never read them quite like this.
Q: What do Tiger, Paris, Lindsay, Alec, and Oprah have in common with the enduring characters of Anton Chekhov?
A: Love, loss, pride, yearning, heartbreak, renewal, transcendence: the very stuff of life.
- Former friends Nicole and Paris exchange prickly pleasantries in "Tall and Short."
- Talk-show host Dave narrowly averts another potential domestic crisis in "A Transgression."
- Reality star Kim shares her newfound notoriety with Khloe and Kourtney in "Joy."
In a witty, graceful, and revelatory feat of literary reinvention, acclaimed novelist and humorist Ben Greenman takes nineteen of Chekhov's greatest stories and recasts them with some of the best-known luminaries of our time—with eye-opening, and oddly ennobling, results.
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"Some years ago Justin Timberlake and I were riding towards evening in fall time in Louisiana to get some coffee...." Kim Kardashian exults to her siblings and parents that she has finally achieved lasting fame: the Internet is buzzing about her sex video with ex-boyfriend Ray J. "Before setting off for her audition, Lindsay Lohan kissed all the movie posters...." "One fine evening, Conan O'Brien was sitting in the second row at the Staples Center, watching the Lakers run away from the Sacramento Kings...." Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler go hunting in the Northern California woods and trade stories about the sorry lives of other famous people.
As a critic, I like most of the books I'm given to review, and I sometimes long for a really bad one to thrash. This one is not at all bad; I'm just not convinced it's ... um ... worth it.
The best stories take time to unfold: "Terror," in which Michael Douglas confides to a nameless narrator his fear of death and unrequited love for his wife, while a dissipated Gary Busey keeps interrupting to wheedle a job out of them; or "The Darling," in which Nicole Kidman is the quiet frontier widow of obsessed theater impresario Tom Cruise, then lumberman Keith Urban, and is barely sustained by the platonic friendship of Brad Pitt, whose son she agrees to care for.
Which is to say that in the most successful tales, the celebrity trappings fall away (or become irrelevant) and you succumb to the spell of the narrative, to lives that look simple on the surface but are complicated and roiling underneath -- in other words, the magic of Chekhov.
There's a chuckle now and then: an image of "busts and portraits of celebrated rappers" on Eminem's writing table; comedians and actors who planned a monument for Andy Kaufman "but snorted up all the money"; a houseguest at Dina and Lindsay Lohan's named Jesse James, who "was sitting at a table, reading Shakespeare" and "was a man of intelligence and education, though he sometimes concealed it."
Having been through the process of publishing a book laden with hard labor and aspirations, I wish good sales to every author (save the get-rich-quick hucksters, millennial visionaries, and get-all-the-dirt-in celeb biographers).
But who will buy this book? Neither fans of the National Enquirer who get their fill at the checkstand, nor (I have to believe) Chekhov lovers. Whom would that leave? Perhaps Celebrity Chekhov could be offered to teenagers as required or optional reading in school, using the bait of famous pop names to spark a discussion of narrative strategy and image ... and to draw kids into reading the stories as Chekhov wrote them.
Eminem demands absolute quiet while wracking his brain for inspiration, leaving his study door open lest anyone forget a genius is at work ("Hush"); conversely, Alec Baldwin arrives at his family's summer digs only to be shuttled from one room to another, temper waxing and waning with the source of provocation ("Not Wanted"). As Chekhov mines the layers of Russian society, Greenman finishes with a flourish, a mildly poignant "Trilogy" wherein Jack Nicholson ("Gooseberries") admits, "I wish I was young! I wish I was young!" and Jamie Foxx reminisces about a secret love for his friend Jay-Z's wife, Beyonce ("About Love").The sad Fate of Lindsay Lohan is bemoaned in "A Classical Student", Lohan's mother, Dina, flayed for the exploitation of her troubled daughter as a commodity. Uncomfortably coincidental, "Terror" features a bemused Michael Douglas in an existential fugue over his own idealization of his perfect family, quiet confidences to a friend compromised by the down-on-his-luck-but-still-smiling Gary Busy, self-effacing and penitent, but with one eye alert for an appreciative audience.
As Chekhov bridges the boundaries of class for a wealth of dramatic material, this author taps into the celebrity-fueled mania of the new millennium, the use of famous (and infamous) names injecting an insidious temptation: the outsider privy to intimate (fictional) conversations of the rich and famous. Where else might a nobody be privy to the rigorous self-examination of Nicole Kidman, a beautiful cipher who entertains no opinions aside from her current mate ("The Darling") or the hubris of Billy Ray Cyrus, a man oblivious to insult when a free haircut is at stake ("At the Barber's)? Celebrity Chekhov has a little something for everyone, a peek into the rarified worlds of those fortunate souls who have capitalized on their fifteen minutes of fame- and a smattering of respected actors- designer footwear tossed aside to reveal feet of clay. Will these stories, like Chekhov's, stand the test of time? Nah, but who can resist eavesdropping on a faux moment of familiarity? Luan Gaines/2010.
Most recent customer reviews
I read this book last night in about 2 hours. It was so fun and witty. Until today, I had no idea who Chekhov was.Read more