Books: Power of Negative Thinking

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF ANTON CHEKHOV (331 pp.)—Edited by Lillian Hellman—Farrar, Straus ($4).

"Why do you always wear black?" "I am in mourning for my life. I am unhappy."

—The Seagull

The Anton Chekhov of the Selected Letters wears his rue with a difference: it is not black, only charcoal grey. No one mocked his low spirits more high-spiritedly than Chekhov. While he put his genius into his short stories and plays, he put his complaints into his letters. But deftly introduced and edited by Playwright Lillian Hellman, Letter-Writer Chekhov emerges as a sweet, kind and amiable grouch, and his correspondence as...

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