IF JANET MALCOLM has a pet cat and a pet ferret, I wouldn't mind betting that the cat has been declawed and the ferret has lost its scent glands. Her reading of Chekhov (the man as much as the stories and plays) is affectionate, attentive and acutely intelligent, but she renders a Chekhov familiar to us hm V S Pritchett or Ravmond Carver - a gentle. understated. well-trained pus\y cat, treading elegantly through the world.
Carried away by Chekhov's decent, often ineffectual and genteelly unhappy characters, readers are easily tempted to imagine the author-progenitor as much the same. True, violently antisocial characters, like the peasant rebel Dymov in 'The Steppe'