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Publisher Description

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER



A GUARDIAN, INDEPENDENT, IRISH TIMES AND EVENING STANDARD BOOK OF 2021



'This book is a delight, and it's about delight too. How necessary, at our particular moment' Tessa Hadley, Guardian



From the New York Times-bestselling, 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.



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.

GENRE
Fiction & Literature
RELEASED
2021
12 January
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
432
Pages
PUBLISHER
Bloomsbury Publishing
SELLER
Bookwire Gesellschaft zum Vertrieb digitaler Medien mbH
SIZE
4.8
MB

Customer Reviews

rhitc ,

Cliff’s highbrow notes

Author
American. Started life as an engineer, did a Masters in Creative Writing at Syracuse University when he was 30, and has been on the faculty there since the late 1990s, along with numerous other visiting positions. Much celebrated writer of short stories, essays, novellas, children's books, and novels, who has won numerous awards including the 2017 Booker for Lincoln in the Bardo. This book is based on the class Mr S has taught to MFA students at Syracuse for the last 20 years about what makes stories work, using great Russian short stories as examples (3 by Chekhov, 2 by Tolstoy, and one each by Turgenev and Gogol).

Summary
Mr S doesn't speak Russian, so has only read these stories in English translation and might have missed something as a result. If so, I'm in the same boat. They are all reproduced in full within the volume so you have no choice but do the reading homework. Mr S analyses some page-by-page and others at the end, asking questions, showing how great writers (these great writers at least) construct their work, let their stories unfold to maintain interest, and lots of other stuff too.

Writing
I admit to finding Mr S's fiction challenging at times, and am on record as being less rapturous in my praise than some. This book, by contrast, contains clear, lucid explanations and arguments that mirror the author's obvious admiration for the talent of his case studies. I was a little disappointed by his somewhat dry analysis of The Nose by Gogol, which is one of the funniest stories ever written IMHO.

Bottom line
High brow version of Cliff's Notes. I greatly enjoyed revisiting the Russian masters while learning about the art of writing and how we read.

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