Professor Simmons' life of Chekhov shows again and again that when you're in the presence of genius, nothing else much matters; one is taken in at every turn. A beautiful work sensitive, scholarly, strangely suggestive, minutely moving. Above all, a work true to the letters, stories, plays: the life seems to tell itself creatively. Not that, by dramatic standards, very much happens. Chekhov takes a medical degree; his early writings are well received; he exposes a penal colony, contracts tuberculosis; The Sea Call is a theatrical disaster but later a Moscow Art triumph; at forty he marries an actress, a few years later he is dead. But the heart of him, continually afire, continually aware, grows page by page, and the myriad of incidents and involvements, whether with the Dreyfus ase or his sister, Tolstoy or Gorky or Marxism, the peasants of small town professionals, constantly charts the progress of a struggling, searching individual who anatomized the simplest and most astonishing aspects of the human condition, saying ""Man will become better when you show him what he is like"". It is hard to imagine a better biography than this, and almost as difficult to list its peers. For every cultured person, a must.