A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A GUARDIAN, INDEPENDENT, IRISH TIMES AND EVENING STANDARD BOOK OF 2021
‘A masterclass from a warm and engagingly enthusiastic companion’ Guardian Summer Reading Picks 2021
‘This book is a delight, and it’s about delight too. How necessary, at our particular moment’ Tessa Hadley
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.
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.
Praise for George Saunders: A morally passionate, serious writer ... He will be read long after these times have passed -- ZADIE SMITH George Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time -- KHALED HOSSEINI What warm, kindhearted and radical writing. Such delicacy, such serious wit. I love it -- MAX PORTER Reading George Saunders is, it's safe to say, like no other literary experience * OBSERVER * He makes the all-but-impossible look effortless. We're lucky to have him -- JONATHAN FRANZEN No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised -- MICHIKO KAKUTANI * NEW YORK TIMES * Few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does -- JUNOT DIAZ A luminous feat of generosity and humanism -- COLSON WHITEHEAD * NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW * Saunders is a true original - restlessly inventive, yet deeply humane -- JENNIFER EGAN Surreal and puncturing -- MARGARET ATWOOD Funny, poignant - in flashes, deeply moving - light as a feather and consistently weird -- HARI KUNZRU
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