This month Esquire magazine will publish a series of ebooks called “Fiction for Men.” These will be “plot driven and exciting, where one thing happens after another,” says Esquire editor in chief, David Granger.
Even in my not-so-exciting feminine life, one thing happens after another.
For instance, after I read about “Fiction for Men,” I happened to pick up a Chekhov short story, “The Proposal. A Story for Girls.” It’s very short. Just two plot-driven pages, beginning with the handsome young Valentin Petrovich Peredyorkin, hardly able to hold back his excitement, setting out for the home of a certain Princess Vera Zapiskina.
How sad, dear reader, that you have never met the Princess. She is a gentle and enchanting creature with soft heavenly-blue eyes and hair like a silken wave.
Valentin Petrovich, whose soul, he tells the Princess, has been filled with unquenchable desires, will be utterly miserable if these desires are to remain unfulfilled.
She lowers her gaze.
A moment of silence.
Valentin Petrovich stammers: He regards the Princess as the most suitable . . . and he’s rich . . . and they’re neighbors, after all . . . .
“Yes, but what is this all about?” asks Princess Vera in a soft voice.
He jumps impetuously to his feet: “My dear, permit me to propose to you . . .”
And, then, suddenly he sits down again, leans in close, and whispers: “I am making the most profitable proposal possible . . . . This way we shall be able to sell a million poods of tallow in a single year . . . . Let us start on our adjoining estates a limited liability company dedicated to tallow boiling.”
The Princess considers for a monent and consents.
Chekhov ends the story with this sentence:
The feminine reader, who expected a melodramatic ending, may relax.
That’s “A Story for Girls.” No wonder we need “Fiction for Men.”
- Women read only romance novels.
- We care only for domestic themes: love, relationships, family.
- We’re obsessed with our feelings.
That’s what Chekhov is poking fun at. I’ve heard it all before. And how, I ask you, how do you think this makes me feel? Vexed?
Oh, come on. It’s Chekhov, a gentle and enchanting creature. I laughed.
The masculine reader, who expected a shrill feminist ending, may relax.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov with hair like a silken wave