Contemporaries of Chekhov described him roaming the streets, markets, taverns, and brothels of Moscow, absorbing the color and commotion of the city and working it into quick, vivid prose. His friend and fellow writer Vladimir Korolenko wrote in his memoirs that when he asked Chekhov how he wrote his stories, Chekhov laughed, snatched up the nearest object–an ashtray–and said that if Korolenko wanted a story called “The Ashtray,” he could have it the next morning.

– Spalding Gray, The Undiscovered Chekhov: Forty-three New Stories

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