Anton Chekhov’s Eight Criteria That Define Civilized People

Chekhov was a Russian physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. 

‘Civilized people must, I believe, satisfy the following criteria:

  1. They respect human beings as individuals and are therefore always tolerant, gentle, courteous and amenable … They do not create scenes over a hammer or a mislaid eraser; they do not make you feel they are conferring a great benefit on you when they live with you, and they don’t make a scandal when they leave. (…)
  2. They have compassion for other people besides beggars and cats. Their hearts suffer the pain of what is hidden to the naked eye. (…)
  3. They respect other people’s property, and therefore pay their debts.
  4. They are not devious, and they fear lies as they fear fire. They don’t tell lies even in the most trivial matters. To lie to someone is to insult them, and the liar is diminished in the eyes of the person he lies to. Civilized people don’t put on airs; they behave in the street as they would at home, they don’t show off to impress their juniors. (…)
  5. They don’t run themselves down in order to provoke the sympathy of others. They don’t play on other people’s heartstrings to be sighed over and cosseted … that sort of thing is just cheap striving for effects, it’s vulgar, old hat and false. (…)
  6. They are not vain. They don’t waste time with the fake jewellery of hobnobbing with celebrities, being permitted to shake the hand of a drunken [judicial orator], the exaggerated bonhomie of the first person they meet at the Salon, being the life and soul of the bar … They regard praises like ‘I am a representative of the Press!!’ — the sort of thing one only hears from [very minor journalists] — as absurd. If they have done a brass farthing’s work they don’t pass it off as if it were 100 roubles’ by swanking about with their portfolios, and they don’t boast of being able to gain admission to places other people aren’t allowed in (…) True talent always sits in the shade, mingles with the crowd, avoids the limelight … As Krylov said, the empty barrel makes more noise than the full one. (…)
  7. If they do possess talent, they value it … They take pride in it … they know they have a responsibility to exert a civilizing influence on [others] rather than aimlessly hanging out with them. And they are fastidious in their habits. (…)
  8. They work at developing their aesthetic sensibility … Civilized people don’t simply obey their baser instincts … they require mens sana in corpore sano.

And so on. That’s what civilized people are like … Reading Pickwick and learning a speech from Faust by heart is not enough if your aim is to become a truly civilized person and not to sink below the level of your surroundings.’

[From a letter to Nikolay Chekhov, March 1886]
~ Anton ChekhovA Life in Letters

Learn more about Anton Chekhov, born 29 January 1860, died 15 July 1904


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15 Bookish Biographies to Read Before You Die

  1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: From a small Arkansas town to the street cars of San Francisco, one of America’s most beloved poets ruminates on the life that led her to such a stellar writing career.
  2. Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and The Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Dunces by Cory MacLauchlin: The tragic, complex story behind A Confederacy of Dunces’ author and his posthumous publication is as incredible as the Pulitzer-winning novel itself.
  3. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: Ernest Hemingway’s time amongst the expatriates of Paris between World Wars is immortalized here, with stories of his friendships with Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Ezra Pound, and famously F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  4. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein: Rather than penning a straight-up autobiography, celebrated modernist Gertrude Stein chose to reflect upon her life surrounded by the intellectual and creative elite through the lens of her secretary and lover Alice B. Toklas.
  5. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King: Both an autobiography and a pretty handy-dandy guide to not writing terribly, the master of horror delivers a necessary read for English majors especially. Though, of course, anyone can benefit from his advice!
  6. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi: Half autobiography, half literary criticism, Reading Lolita in Tehran explores how reading groups kept a professor and her female students together as the Ayatollah Khomeini’s rule suppressed their rights to an education.
  7. Why be Happy when You Could be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson: Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, a landmark of LGBTQIA literature, pulled considerably from author Jeanette Winterson’s own personal traumas as the lesbian daughter of radically Pentecostal missionaries.
  8. Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov: This non-chronological memoir explores the controversial, but still beloved, writer’s life in Russia prior to his American immigration.
  9. Why this World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector by Benjamin Moser: Celebrated existentialist and modernist Clarice Lispector’s unusual life saw her transition from the struggling child of Ukranian immigrants to a quirky and beloved Brazilian literary superstar.
  10. What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami: Some of the greatest works of contemporary literature, like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Sputnik Sweetheart, and After Dark, burst into existence thanks to their author’s passion for marathon training.
  11. I.Asimov: A Memoir by Isaac Asimov: Even readers who dislike science-fiction still witness Isaac Asimov’s thumbprint in the popular culture surrounding them, so it pays to stay in the know about his life, works, and philosophies.
  12. Rent Girl by Michelle Tea: The Mission District in San Francisco serves as the piquant backdrop for the irreverent, hilarious, and honest writer Michelle Tea’s straightforward memoir of prostitution, drug abuse, and the girlfriend who led her down that path.
  13. Lucky: A Memoir by Alice Sebold: During her freshman year at Syracuse, this best-selling author suffered a horrific rape by a stranger, and she frankly discusses both the trauma and the resulting painful healing and criminal justice process here.
  14. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: David Eggers’ curious memoir mimics the natural state of memory, with plenty of bluntly admitted edits and embellishments meant to illustrate an overarching theme of veracity versus storytelling.
  15. The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain: Learn all about how one of the literary world’s most razor-sharp wits approached his own writing and perceived the world around him with almost eerily keen insight.

From OEDB 

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Your Characters And Their Non-Verbal Communication

by Carolyn Kaufman

Though most people appreciate that information is communicated through body language and vocal tone, they don’t usually realize just how much. In fact, words are only part of the message in face-to-face communication; vocal tone accounts for another chunk of the message, and nonverbals for another large chunk. As a result, we often give away more about ourselves than we intend to.

This is true of your characters, too, and your job as the writer is to convey the most important nuances in your story.

  1. Where might you meet your character? Where would he choose to meet? A park, a bar, a restaurant? Where does he go in his free time? Where might other people see him out?
  2. How does she use technology? Is she glued to her cell phone? What is her email address? Does she use a signature on her emails? Does she Tweet,Facebook, or use other social networking sites like Linked In? What kinds of information does she share online?
  3. What are his mannerisms? Does he twist his wedding ring uneasily or repeatedly check his cell phone? What kinds of concerns, anxieties, needs, or hopes is he conveying with these mannerisms?
  4. How does she wear her hair? Is the colour natural or from a bottle? Does she dye it herself or have it professionally done? Does she fuss over her hair when she passes a reflective surface?
  5. How does he carry himself? Does he swagger, stalk, or slink through life?
  6. Does she have any tattoos? What’s the story behind them? Does she display her ink proudly or take pains to cover it up? What does she hope, or fear, others will think when they see the tattoo/s?
  7. How does he handle conveying information to others? Is he dry and pedantic or enthusiastic and animated? Does he drop names, or is he self-effacing? Does he share stories to illustrate his points?
  8. How much does she work to engage the other person? Does she lean toward them or push back in her chair? Is her eye contact good? Does she nod? Does she ask questions or simply talk about herself?
  9. What is he most proud of about himself, and how does he show this? If he’s proud of his wealth, for example, does he drive an expensive car, wear custom-tailored clothes, or flash expensive jewellery?
  10. What do her clothes say about her? What’s her typical “style”? What brands does she wear? What sorts of messages or slogans appear on her t-shirts, caps, or the backside of her sweatpants?
  11. Does he have an accent? Where from? What kind of vocabulary does he use? Lots of slang? Lots of jargon?
  12. How does she interact with strangers—the wait staff at a restaurant, people on the street, other drivers? Is she the kind of person who holds doors or lets them slam in others’ faces? Does she cut people off in traffic and curse their driving, or is she more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt and let them pull out in front of her?

From Psychology for Writers 

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Top 10 Best-Selling Fiction Authors of All Time

10. J.K Rowling - 400 million copies

9. Leo Tolstoy - 413 Million copies

8. Gilbert Pattern (William George Gilbert Pattern) - 500 Million copies

7. Dr. Suess (Theodore Seuss Geisel) - 500 million copies

6. Danielle Steel (Danielle Fernande Dominique Schuelein-Steel ) - 570 million copies

5. Enid Blyton - 600 million copies

4. Georges Simenon - 700 million copies

3. Harold Robbins - 750 million copies

2. Barbara Cartland - 1 billion copies

1. Agatha Christie - 4 billion copies

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10 Things Holden Caulfield Hates About Everyone

Holden Caulfield from J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is the embodiment of disaffected youth in literature. Here are 10 quotes that show how much he hates everyone.

1. Bros

“He was one of those guys that think they’re being a pansy if they don’t break around forty of your fingers when they shake hands with you. God, I hate that stuff.”

2. Women

“I mean most girls are so dumb and all. After you neck them for a while, you can really watch them losing their brains. You take a girl when she really gets passionate, she just hasn’t any brains.”

3. Phoniness

“You never saw so many phonies in all your life, everybody smoking their ears off and talking about the play so that everybody could hear and know how sharp they were.”

4. Disciples

“I like Jesus and all, but I don’t care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting Him down. I like almost anybody in the Bible better than the Disciples.”

5. Movies

“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me.”

6. Growing Up

“Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway.”

 7. Cliques

“Everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques. The guys that are on the basketball team stick together, the Catholics stick together, the goddam intellectuals stick together, the guys that play bridge stick together. Even the guys that belong to the goddam Book-of-the-Month club stick together.”

8. His Childhood

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

9. Abrupt Endings

“I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t, you feel even worse.”

10. Being Bougie

“Everything I had was bourgeois as hell…. At first he only used to be kidding when he called my stuff bourgeois, and I didn’t give a damn — it was sort of funny, in fact. Then, after a while, you could tell he wasn’t kidding any more.

Goddam money. It always ends up making you blue as hell.”

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