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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four…
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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class… (Original 2021; 2021. Auflage)

von George Saunders (Autor)

MitgliederRezensionenBeliebtheitDurchschnittliche BewertungDiskussionen
4461643,437 (4.46)21
Titel:A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life
Autoren:George Saunders (Autor)
Info:Random House (2021), 432 pages
Sammlungen:Deine Bibliothek


A Swim in a Pond in the Rain von George Saunders (2021)

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So, I finally pulled this book off my TBR pile. I have to say I was a little nervous to start this, as I've read so many good things about it that I was afraid I might be let down by actually reading it. But I'm happy to report that instead I found it to be well worth the wait.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a book about writing - specifically about writing short fiction stories. George Saunders, author of many short stories himself, as well as the Man Booker Prize winning novel Lincoln in the Bardo, has for 20 years taught a writing class based around the short stories of iconic Russian authors, as part of the MFA program at Syracuse University. He builds on that classroom experience to bring us this book, a literary "master class" on what makes stories work.

In the book are seven short stories from Tolstoy, Chekhov, Turgenev and Gogol. Following each story is an essay from Saunders giving us his interpretation, along with story writing ideas and techniques that he sees at work in the stories as an aid to helping aspiring writers to think about their own approach to the craft. In these essays he's trying to convey how these classic stories "work".

Following each of Saunders' essays is another section he calls "Afterthoughts". In these sections Saunders takes some of the techniques and ideas highlighted in his essay and gives us a more direct discussion about how he thinks about and uses them in his own writing.

What's great about these essays and afterthoughts are not just the lessons that Saunders conveys, but how he does it. He doesn't talk down to us in bombastic professor speak. This is not a textbook. His writing style is sprinkled with quips and self-deprecating asides that put your mind at ease so that those lessons slide right into your brain. I found myself eagerly taking notes as I read.

I do think that I am squarely in the target audience for this book. I am someone who aspires to write. But this book works for aspiring readers too, if I can put it that way. What I mean is that Saunders pulls so much meaning out of these stories that I feel like I've been challenged to be a better reader, and have been armed with the tools to be one too.

It's not that Saunders' interpretation of each of these stories is the "correct" interpretation, and that he's found the "best way" to be a reader. Rather, it's about connection.

One of the points that Saunders emphasizes in the book is that stories provide connection between the author and the reader, and that each of us who experiences the story brings something to it. What a Chekhov short story means to Saunders may differ from what it means to you or I, but each experience is legitimate. What Saunders offers readers is a peak behind the curtain at the author and the tools of the craft that you as a reader can use to illuminate meaning in bits of a story you may have otherwise glossed over.

The title of the book, by the way, comes from a scene in "Gooseberries", one of the Chekhov stories covered in the book.

I'm very glad I read this book, and I recommend it for all aspiring writers and readers out there who haven't yet picked it up. An enthusiastic Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐. ( )
  stevrbee | Oct 4, 2021 |
I found this George Saunders book on writing to be very curious, as his observations and comments are nearly priceless. He says of it, “This is a book for writers but also, I hope, for readers.” He also explains his inspiration. “For the last twenty years, at Syracuse University, I’ve been teaching a class in the nineteenth-century Russian short story in translation.” He decided to write this book after realizing all that those classes meant to him. “I’ve had the realization that some of the best moments of my life, the moments during which I’ve really felt myself offering something of value to the world, have been spent teaching that Russian class.”

Each semester his small class would read about thirty stories and then look into how they worked, what motivated the author, and what those Russian masters were attempting to bring to their readers. “What we’re going to be doing here, essentially, is watching ourselves read.” “The basic drill I’m proposing here is: read the story, then turn your mind to the experience you’ve just had.” He would have them read a page at a time and then discuss it, which is how he starts out handling the first story in the book. After he makes the following observation on this practice, he allow the book’s readers to read longer and longer sections of the stories. “One of the features of this page-at-a-time exercise: the better the story, the more curious the reader is to find out what’s going to happen and the more annoying the exercise is.”

I loved how he got to the book’s final conclusions and simply said that all he knows, is how he writes and what works for him. I’m always afraid that teachers will start claiming that their hard-and-fast rules that work for everyone, every single time are perfect and faultless. The book contains seven Russian stories: “In the Cart,” “The Darling,” “Gooseberries” by Chekhov; “Master and Man,” “Alyosha the Pot” by Tolstoy; “The Singers” by Turgenev; and “The Nose” by Gogol. I have a collected stories of Gogol on a book wishlist that I may order just on the strength of “The Nose.” It’s a stunning piece of writing.

Just for some cheap thrills, I’ll share these wise and amusing lines sprinkled throughout the book.
“The secret of boring people,” Chekhov said, “Lies in telling them everything.”
“Money, like vodka, can do queer things to a man.”
“A story is a series of incremental pulses, each of which does something to us.”
“A story with a problem is like a person with a problem: interesting. As we read a story (let’s imagine) we’re dragging along a cart labeled “Things I Couldn’t Help Noticing” (TICHN).”
“My first semester as a grad student at Syracuse, one of our professors, the great short story writer Tobias Wolff, gave a reading, one of the first I’d ever been to. Rather than reading from his own work, he read us some Chekhov.”
And one I think is killer. “Gogol was strange creature,” Nabokov wrote, “but genius is always strange.”

Even if you never ever intend to write your own short story, reading this book will not only give you a chance to read some wonderful stories, but also to be impressed by an agile and gifted mind explaining what a writer does to, and for his readers. ( )
  jphamilton | Jul 13, 2021 |
A book to make the embryonic author in me become alert and uncomfortably ambitious and myself anxious. 7 stories by 4 authors with their clear strengths, possible weaknesses and strange ambiguities are presented and examined and loved. ( )
1 abstimmen quondame | Jun 29, 2021 |
Truly a masterclass in short story criticism. The commentary can almost stand alone from the Russian picks he made. ( )
1 abstimmen albertgoldfain | Jun 29, 2021 |
I have written a whole heap on posts about this book, tackling each of the seven Russian stories one by one. You can find them on my blog with this tag
Overall, I thought the stories were great (four stars) and Saunders thoughts about them less so (three stars).
Which just shows you how silly it is rate books and one day I'm going to stop doing it... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jun 24, 2021 |
keine Rezensionen | Rezension hinzufügen

» Andere Autoren hinzufügen (7 möglich)

AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Saunders, GeorgeHauptautoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Chekhov, AntonMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Gogol, NikolaiMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Tolstoy, LeoMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Turgenev, IvanMitwirkenderCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
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