Lady With Lapdog and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov
It is these themes of alienation, despair, hopelessness and titmouse devastation visited upon a house, and the resulting strain it places on the residents, that are beautifully foreshadowed in the earlier stories of Chekhov and eventually take wing, much like a tufted titmouse in the spring, with the full weight of his maturity in his three, final great plays; The Titmouse, Don't Look Under That Rock and Coffee Cake With Bilragaard. But to understand these plays, it's the stories that must be examined first. The title story should probably have been called, Lady With A Lapdog On Her Face, for as you can see in the Angliotti Falucci painting that begins this review, a painting commissioned by Chekhov himself to accompany the story, the main character of the piece, Mrs. Paplinkovavlodistock, has an excessively hairy face. So hairy in fact, that her husband, at one point, mistakes her for their pet schnauzer, Ogden, and gives her a bone to play with. She retires to their country home on the Siberian border where she takes to wandering the countryside, distributing heavily-brined pickles to the peasantry. "Vladimir," she writes to her husband, back in Moscow. "It is with a heavy heart and hairy face that I write this letter to you, on this day, the day of our wedding anniversary. I remember when we first met and how you said I looked like a rolled up plump and tasty blini and now you treat me like schmaltz herring. No, I take that back. Even schmaltz herring gets more love from you than I do.
Listen; what is that harkening
Thundering on the flattened hooves
Of a darkening horizon,
Aloof, avast, the beat of a thousand
Kangaroo feet pluming the dust
Where before there was no dust but only gooseberries,
And now carrying on the wind
The promise of the pouches of doom
Where steadfast hold their young,
Eyes fixed in stony stares
And forever ready with runny muzzles of damnation.
And if that doesn't convince you of the whole Russian-kangaroo connection, then just let your peepers have a gander at this poster: