‘Fat And Thin’ by Anton Chekhov

Chekhov, Anton 1883

Fat And Thin by Anton Chekhov, 1883

The magic trick:

Using a before-and-after behavior contrast

In Grace Paley’s “A Conversation With My Father,” the narrator’s father wishes she would write a simple story like Chekhov. Perhaps her dad was thinking of “Fat And Thin.”

It is the picture of economy. It has one point to make and it does so perfectly using a before-and-after contrast and then the reader goes on with their day slightly smarter than they were seven minutes earlier. And that’s quite a trick on Jacobs’s part.

The selection:

“We were boys at school together,” the thin man went on. “Do you remember how they used to tease you? You were nicknamed Herostratus because you burned a hole in a schoolbook with a cigarette, and I was nicknamed Ephialtes because I was fond of telling tales. Ho–ho! . . . we were children! . . . Don’t be shy, Nafanya. Go nearer to him. And this is my wife, her maiden name was Vantsenbach, of the Lutheran persuasion. . . .”

Nafanail thought a little and took refuge behind his father’s back.

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