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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain : In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life
by George Saunders




Overview -
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.

LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN/DIAMONSTEIN-SPIELVOGEL AWARD - ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, NPR, Time, San Francisco Chronicle, Esquire, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Town & Country, The Rumpus, Electric Lit, Thrillist, BookPage - " A] worship song to writers and readers."--Oprah Daily

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.

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Overview

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.

LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN/DIAMONSTEIN-SPIELVOGEL AWARD - ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, NPR, Time, San Francisco Chronicle, Esquire, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Town & Country, The Rumpus, Electric Lit, Thrillist, BookPage - " A] worship song to writers and readers."--Oprah Daily

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.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781984856029
  • ISBN-10: 1984856022
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Publish Date: January 2021
  • Page Count: 432
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.7 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain

George Saunders won the 2017 Man Booker Prize for his novel Lincoln in the Bardo and was a National Book Award finalist for his short story collection Tenth of December. But the acclaimed author has also taught for more than 20 years in Syracuse University’s prestigious MFA creative writing program. There, in a semester-long class, he and his aspirants parse Russian short stories in translation to better understand how masters of the form such as Anton Chekhov and Nikolai Gogol built their work from the ground up. For an emerging writer, Saunders believes, this process is akin to “a young composer studying Bach. All of the bedrock principles of the form are on display.”

Now, in a true gift to writers and serious readers, Saunders has adapted the core of this coveted class into a commodious new book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life.

Beloved author George Saunders teaches the masters in his new book, sharing invaluable insights into classic Russian short stories.

With infectious enthusiasm and generosity of spirit, Saunders delves into seven stories that he calls the “seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world”: three by Chekhov, two by Leo Tolstoy and one each from Ivan Turgenev and Gogol. (The actual syllabus at Syracuse contains about 30 stories.) The primary texts of the featured stories are included in the book, and after each one, Saunders launches into his “seminar,” providing insights—both his own and some gleaned from students over the years—into the structure and subtleties of these works.

On the surface, this may seem a dry endeavor. However, in Saunders’ hands it is anything but. His love of literature is palpable, and his obvious qualities as an artful teacher are on full display. Saunders takes a different tack with each story, sometimes providing pulse-by-pulse dissections, other times analyzing the building of character or even how the excesses of a story somehow manage to contribute to rather than detract from its greatness. He also supplies an “afterthought” to each story’s analysis, in which he shares a personal anecdote from his own life as a writer and reader.

While the genesis of A Swim in a Pond in the Rain can be found in the creative writing classroom—and writers at any level of their careers will glean priceless pearls from nearly every page—the genius of Saunders’ book, and his clear intention in offering it up, is to elucidate literature for the engaged reader, deepening the reading experience. It is also a blueprint for a greater engagement with humanity. “The part of the mind that reads a story is also the part that reads the world,” Saunders writes. “It can deceive us, but it can also be trained to accuracy; it can fall into disuse and make us more susceptible to lazy, violent, materialistic forces, but it can also be urged back to life, transforming us into more active, curious, alert readers of reality.”

 

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