the archivist May 4, 2024
Cover of George Saunders book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
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Review: A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life

George Saunders

Random House

ISBN 9781984856029
PRICE $28.00 (USD)

George Saunders, the celebrated author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December, invites readers on an intellectual journey with his latest work, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain. In this masterful exploration of Russian short stories, Saunders shares insights gleaned from two decades of teaching a course on the subject at Syracuse University, offering readers a profound understanding of what makes great literature tick.

Saunders’ approach is both technical and accessible, as he dissects iconic works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, unraveling the intricacies of narrative construction while delving into larger questions about life, humanity, and the nature of storytelling itself. Through seven essays paired with short stories, Saunders guides readers through an immersive examination of the craft, revealing the inner workings of fiction and its profound relevance in our tumultuous times.

The brilliance of A Swim in a Pond in the Rain lies in its ability to appeal to both avid readers and aspiring writers. The format, which combines essays with story analysis allows readers to engage with the material at their own pace, but still provides an experience akin to attending Saunders’ MFA classes.

Saunders’ enthusiasm is infectious, leaving readers eager to absorb his wisdom and apply it to their own reading and writing endeavors. Even for those less familiar with Russian literature, the book offers a captivating experience that transcends genre preferences. Through Saunders’ guidance, readers gain not only a deeper appreciation for the classics but also valuable insights into the art of storytelling.

There is also an excellent audiobook version featuring the short stories performed by Phylicia Rashad, Nick Offerman, Glenn Close, Keith David, Rainn Wilson, BD Wong, and Renée Elise Goldsberry, and the commentary is read by the author.



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