A perfect match of author and subject. In an effort to know one of her favorite writers better. Janet Malcolm -- who has brought light to the dark and complicated corners of psychoanalysis and has exposed the treacheries inherent within journalism--traveled to Russia and the places where Chekhov lived and worked. Out of her encounters with modern-day Russians she builds bridges backward in time to Chekhov and to the characters and ideas in his unexampled short stories and plays. The chapters are like pools of thought that coalesce into a profound, unified vision of one of Western literary culture's most important figures. For example, Chekhov's self-effacement prompts a consideration of his characters' odd un-pin-down-ability and then a discussion of limitations in writing biography. One need not know Chekhov's writing to enjoy and be enlightened byReading Chekhov(though anyone who does will find it doubly edifying). It is a work in which as we watch one outstanding mind try to understand another, we learn more about ourselves--our own ways of reading, thinking, and behaving: generally, what it means to be human.