A Swim in A Pond in the Rain

A Swim in A Pond in the Rain

In Which Four Russians Give A Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life

Book - 2021
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * From the Booker Prize-winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December comes a literary master class on what makes great stories work and what they can tell us about ourselves--and our world today.

"One of the most accurate and beautiful depictions of what it is like to be inside the mind of a writer that I've ever read."--Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

For the last twenty years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain , he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it's more relevant than ever in these turbulent times.

In his introduction, Saunders writes, "We're going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn't fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art--namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?" He approaches the stories technically yet accessibly, and through them explains how narrative functions; why we stay immersed in a story and why we resist it; and the bedrock virtues a writer must foster. The process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is a technical craft, but also a way of training oneself to see the world with new openness and curiosity.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a deep exploration not just of how great writing works but of how the mind itself works while reading, and of how the reading and writing of stories make genuine connection possible.

Opinion

From Library Staff

For the last twenty years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years... Read More »


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l
lsilzel
May 07, 2021

~ 400 pages

g
gloryb
May 06, 2021

Reading this book was like taking a course in the Russian short story by four classic Russian authors. I was not impressed with the author's short story selection which he used to give lengthy commenaries. If a story needs to be interpreted to its reader, isn't the writer falling down on his job? I didn't find the stories interesting despite the fact that they were written by Chekhov, Gogol, Tolstoy, Turgenev. George Saunders' commentary on each story is exhaustive and at times longer than the story itself.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Mar 08, 2021

While not every reader will find this book amazing, but it's a "must read" for every reader who loves short stories, the reading/writing process, and/or George Saunders. As with Lincoln in the Bardo, Mr. Saunders has gotten amazing audio book readers. He reads his own essays, but the short stories he discusses are each read by great readers, so it's also wonderful on audio.

DPLjennyp Feb 24, 2021

Loved it so much. The stories and Saunders's analysis of each. Total nerdy nirvana.

LCPL_Cathy Feb 12, 2021

George Saunders is a renowned author and a teacher of creative writing at Syracuse University. In his latest book, he offers a masterful discussion on how to read and write short stories. This book will prove invaluable for aspiring writers. I have no ambition there but still found the book immensely enjoyable. In the author’s witty and good-natured style, he explores the reasons why we like a story as well as insights into human nature. The book and the author are real treasures.

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LCPL_Cathy Feb 13, 2021

“The writer and the reader stand at either end of a pond. The writer drops a pebble in and the ripples reach the reader.”

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