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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… (2021. Auflage)

von George Saunders (Autor)

MitgliederRezensionenBeliebtheitDurchschnittliche BewertungDiskussionen
3221161,571 (4.42)16
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), Edition: 1st, 432 pages
Sammlungen:Read & Owned


A Swim in a Pond in the Rain von George Saunders

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George Saunders, author of prize-winning story collections as well as the Man Booker Prize novel Lincoln in the Bardo, is a professor at Syracuse University where he teaches a class in 19th century Russian short stories – Tolstoy, Chekhov, Turgenev, Gogol, and Gorky. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain grew out of this course, and now it’s your chance to sit in, read the stories, and follow Saunders’s commentary, questions, and multiple “Afterthoughts.” You’re also offered a chance to try your hand at some exercises: cutting, escalating, evaluating translations (even if you speak not a word of Russian). It’s a friendly, cheerful, breezy tour through some iconic literature you may have not felt up to tackling, and if you love Russian literature already, this will enlighten and entertain you.

He starts out gently: doling out Chekhov’s “In the Cart” in two-page doses, asking questions along the way: What did you notice? What did it make you think of? Why do you think he put that in there? By the end, a simple little story of an errand into town has become a microcosm of an ordinary woman’s whole life. Subsequent stories are poured out in full measure, followed by Saunders’s musings, observations, and always, always questions. He offers not just explications of the stories themselves but of the writing process: how did these writers come up with these ideas, these images, these plots, and why might they have arranged these sentences the way they did? The course is geared toward aspiring writers, who are a very select bunch from a large pool of applicants, so these “technical” issues are key to the discussions, as illustrated by these masters. But it’s George Saunders: he’s funny, he’s irreverent, he demystifies: “We can reduce all of writing to this: we read a line, have a reaction to it, trust (accept) that reaction, and do something in response (instantaneously) by intuition. That’s it. Over and over.” Or: “You don’t need an idea to start a story, you just need a sentence.” Of course it’s not that simple. I seriously doubt that when Chekhov sat down to write “The Darling” he just scribbled out a sentence and kept going. If we can see the developing pattern, surely Chekhov could too – he was too damn good and knew his tools too well not to. But Saunders is also big on revision: that first sentence can always be better, tighter, more vivid – and most of all, it needs to cause something, to go somewhere: “Who cares if the first draft is good? It doesn’t need to be good, it just needs to be, so you can revise it.” He observes: “Many young writers start out with the idea that a story is a place to express their views… they understand the story as a delivery system for their ideas… but, as a technical matter, fiction doesn’t support polemic very well.” In the end, he asserts, what fiction does is to “[cause] an incremental change in the state of a mind… that’s it… that change is finite but real. And that’s not nothing. It’s not everything, but it’s not nothing.”

And if you don’t always agree with his approach, he’s fine with that. After I finished grumbling a little about a few of his pronouncements, I forgave him instantly for this: ““That feeling of disagreeing with me was your artistic will asserting itself.” A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a delightful opportunity to explore seven terrific stories (well, maybe six… I never will “get” Gogol), and have your writing mind juiced along the way.

Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for a honest review. ( )
1 abstimmen JulieStielstra | May 17, 2021 |
This book guided me on a journey and increased my understanding of why reading has been so central in my life.
It lifted my spirit more than ANY thing I've read over the last 20 years.
I am thankful to have shared time (sometimes wrestling) with these teachings. ( )
1 abstimmen grbeer | May 11, 2021 |
  chrisvia | Apr 30, 2021 |
Delightful!... First of all, what an interesting format! This book is two things: (a) - it is an unusual master class on writing, and it really makes you wish you had the talent for writing, yet it also complements the reader and confirms the tight connection between reader and writer (even so, Saunders clearly warns that it's not a "how-to" book on writing, he would never want to limit talent with some stringent rules); and (b) - he examines at great length 7 short stories by classical giants of Russian literature of the 19th century (their styles, their ideas and opinions - everything, in great detail). And he ruminates on the big life's questions - "You know, those cheerful, Russian kinds of big questions", he says, with a sparkle in his eyes, I can feel...

I found myself reading Saunders's chapters with the same eagerness as the short stories themselves (by the 4 great Russian writers) that are interspersed throughout the book. And that's saying a lot! His love of writing/literature is very invigorating, his enthusiasm is undaunted! His take on the Russians (Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol, Turgenev) presented here, is amazingly clever, thoughtful, profound. He goes to the extent of sharing the same passage by different translators, and we can see how differently Russian words are perceived by them (being a native Russian speaker, it was quite an eye-opener for me to witness...). Saunders admits that Gogol's stories, for instance, may read especially differently in Russian (than even in the best ever translation) ... And I can testify that others do, too. But notwithstanding these peculiarities - of things "untranslatable" - Saunders's enthusiasm is never diminished.

Saunders must be a superb professor in actual, live class! It goes without saying that I shall never look at another piece of writing (Russian or not, short story or not) with the same eyes again. What great imagination, what great use of it!!! And not just that: it's honest, intelligent writing, very witty but sincerely and lovingly so - towards the classical writers under discussion! - as well as his great analytical thinking: he distributes everything ever so cleverly and neatly on the shelves. His examples and comparisons are unusual and very engaging.

As for the writers, just look at this little quote from his assessment of Chekhov: "He was a doctor, and his approach to fiction feels lovingly diagnostic. Walking into the examination room, finding Life sitting there, he seems to say: "Wonderful, let's see what's going on!"... (It couldn't be said any better!!!)

... And - he goes on (about Chekhov) - " But that's what we love about him... In a world full of people who seem to know everything, passionately, based on little (often slanted) information, where certainty is often mistaken for power, what a relief it is to be in the company of someone, confident enough to stay unsure (that is, perpetually curious)... We have to stay open (easy to say in the confident New Age way, but so hard to actually do, in the face of the grinding, terrifying life). As we watch Chekhov continually, ritually doubt all conclusions, we're comforted. It's all right to reconsider. It's noble - holy even. It can be done. We can do it. We know this because of the example he leaves in his stories, which are, we might say, splendid, brief reconsideration machines ".

Saunders says this about Tolstoy: "It's not a stretch to say that his fiction changed the way human beings think about themselves". I find myself agreeing fully.

After reading this book, I will probably find ANY book I read next (by anybody) a little underwhelming - just because this one was such a wonderful read! Need to explore more by George Saunders, that's for sure. ( )
1 abstimmen Clara53 | Apr 27, 2021 |
This book is a gift! If, and only if, your dream is to be a student in the classroom of the astounding author, George Saunders, then this book is a dream come true. The author/professor takes the reader through the process of understanding the writing of a short story. I have never really pondered what it is that drives me to turn the page to continue reading, or what type of transactional relationship exists between writer and reader. So, if you are intrigued, run to the nearest bookstore and get this book. You will devour it. However, if literature/writing class sounds like a torturous experience, don't bother. ( )
1 abstimmen hemlokgang | Apr 20, 2021 |
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» Andere Autoren hinzufügen (9 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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