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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Dead Russians Give Us a Masterclass in Writing and Life

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  78 ratings  ·  34 reviews
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.
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Hardcover, 1st edition, 432 pages
Published January 12th 2021 by Random House
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Jennifer I just asked someone on Goodreads who read and reviewed an advance copy. He replied: IN THE CART (Chekhov), THE SINGERS (Turgenev), THE DARLING (Chekh…moreI just asked someone on Goodreads who read and reviewed an advance copy. He replied: IN THE CART (Chekhov), THE SINGERS (Turgenev), THE DARLING (Chekhov), MASTER AND MAN (Tolstoy), THE NOSE (Gogol), GOOSEBERRIES (Chekhov), ALYOSHA THE POT (Tolstoy)(less)
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Krista
A story is a series of incremental pulses, each of which does something to us. Each puts us in a new place, relative to where we just were. Criticism is not some inscrutable, mysterious process. It’s just a matter of: (1) noticing ourselves responding to a work of art (where we were before we read it and where we were after) and (2) getting better at articulating that response. What I stress to my students is how empowering this process is. The world is full of people with agendas, trying to
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Cheri
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing, 2021, arc, netgalley

If you’ve never had the pleasure of taking a course in creative writing from George Saunders, this is your chance to take advantage of what he has to share without spending a semester in Syracuse, New York. This time of year, especially, it makes sense to opt out of the chillier weather and sit in on some of the lessons, virtually, as Saunders’ shares with his Syracuse students, in a master class on the Russian short story.

He includes two stories by Tolstoy: Master and Man and Alyosha the Pot, t
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Lucas
Jul 03, 2020 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
You probably couldn't ask for a better teacher of writing than George Saunders.
He's largely considered the modern master of the short story and his prose is at once gorgeous and experimental. He won the Booker Prize with his first novel in 2017. His collection Tenth of December is astonishingly well-crafted. He's also a teacher at the distinguished Syracuse MFA program.
This is definitely a book to look out for.
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Lissa
Oct 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley-books
I like my fiction meaty, long, full of characters that I feel like I know inside and out, with a setting that feels like home which is why the short story format has never really spoken to me. Apparently, I just have never had George Saunders explain in full detail exactly why short stories are so tautly and expertly written. This book includes seven short stories by Russian authors such as Chekhov and Tolstoy and then a lesson taught by a master himself going through the short story and its nua ...more
Jo Ladzinski
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read a NetGalley eARC

This is my first foray into nineteenth century Russian short stories and Saunders’ experience teaching them page-by-page shines through this craft book that is also a specific craft study. Saunders selected works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol to explore how these stories work and the connections between readers and authors.

What really stuck out to me about this collection was the subjectivity of the analysis and the dispersal of advice. Saunders makes it abundantl
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Ian
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5
Communication’s a key ingredient to our daily life. Even choosing to avoid it says multiple somethings about us. Be the relationship cave painter and archaeologist or mother and son, down to the nanosecond most of us (speaker and auditor) repeatedly fudge it up. In that last sentence, for example, the subject choices and use of the word ‘fudge’ paint both a true-ish and false-like picture of this reviewer. But this isn’t about me (or is it?). [Ahem] Through a panoply of pitch-perfect analogies, ...more
Cecilia Barron
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He's so cute :)

Forgot what it was like to learn about writing again; this was a good reminder. I like to think I'm breaking things down when I read and thinking about it, but I'm usually not. He's really quite good at that. I also loved the stories he chose, even the ones I didn't love (Chekhov>Gogol).

A lot of the information was repetitive. He also sometimes seemed to forget he was writing a book instead of teaching a class, so he would summarize, intensely, a story that was literally on the pr
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Julie Stielstra
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: public and college libraries; aspiring writers and lovers of Russian literature
* Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for a honest review *

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 multipl
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John Oakley
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who is interested in writing and how it works (even if you don’t write), or how good stories and narratives work, or the power of literature in general and how it can improve our lives, or just general fans of short stories or George Saunders, this is a must read. For everyone else it’s a should read
Kim
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The class I’ve always wanted to take but have never been able to take. This is just like sitting in on the class that Saunders teaches. Plenty of commentary and thoughtful provocation but no demands of the reader or bossy statements about what the authors of the short stories clearly were saying (I can’t stand that behavior, how do you know what they were thinking?) but lots of “Well maybe...” statements that help the reader along on this digestion route.

Basically that’s what this course is, a
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Yelena Chzhen
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

George Saunders is the kind of professor whose classes I daydream about going to, when I pretend to be an accomplished short story writer, attending MA in Creative Writing in Syracuse, discussing my ideas with a lucky dozen of students and George himself in his class.

Reality: I hold in my hands an advance copy of his short story criticism/teaching, sort of in the form of class activity, focusing on Russian Classics as examples. Reality is not bad at all.

George Saunders can’t benefit from reading
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Steve
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My thanks to NetGalley and Randon House for the ARC ebook of this title.
A great book for the current lock down - like taking a class at home! And, from a master of the short story himself.
Nice in that you can dip into it by chapter, and read his stunning insights while you read the original work. I do need to share that I have just read 2 of the chapters so far. But I am a lover of Russian Lit, and I know I will love the rest of the book as much as I have so far.
My only complaint - no Pushkin!
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Lydia Wallace
Nov 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great writer. Saunders has spent a lot of time compiling a series of original essays. Saunders explores and dissects Tolstoy, Chekhov, Turgenev, and Gogol. He does a great job of answering readers questions. It really taught be how to write. I would give you ten stars if possible. You deserve it. Pick this book up and you won't to put it down. Ready for your next book. Don't make me suffer too long. ...more
Carlos Vasconcelos
Saunders teaches readers to find life in fiction and fiction in life, using the best short story writers to ever live - the Russians.
Another book that could only be written by Saunders, though this one is clearly intended for a shorter audience.
Nick Braden
Dec 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Saunders says in his introduction that this book was largely written for "people who've put reading at the center of their lives." Full disclosure: That isn't me. I enjoy reading, but I'm a slow reader, not to mention a fairly disorganized person with two young children. If I put reading at the center of my life... well, I shudder to think.

On a related note, here's another disclosure: I haven't finished reading this book. Normally I wouldn't rate a book before I'd finished reading it, let alone
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Keith
Dec 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Suppose you find yourself in the mood to read some good short stories. Let’s also say that you have a particular interest in reading the fiction of some of the great Russian masters. However, one thing that has always troubled you when you tried to satisfy such an urge in the past is that, despite enjoying the stories, you could not figure out exactly why they are considered to be so great. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a knowledgeable friend available to help you understand the subtleties of s ...more
Zach Freking-Smith
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley

Originally published at The Best Freking Book Blog

Learning from the Russian masters

I love George Saunders. He’s truly a master of the short story. Tenth of December is one of my biggest influences in my writing. And you all know how much I love Lincoln in the Bardo. Saunders is definitely at the top of his craft, so when I saw this book that was billed as a masterclass in short story writing, I was in. SO IN.

AND IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain features seven different short st
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Wendy
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"...great novels are always a little more intelligent than their authors. Novelists who are more intelligent than their books, should go into another line of work."

What a privilege to engage with George Saunders, his intelligence, maturity, and sensibilities as he escorts us through our experience of 4 master storytellers, Chehkov, Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Gogol. We are treated to seven of their short stories and a masterclass on writing and yes, reading, by Mr. Saunders.

A bit of a weird concept f
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Ben
Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for an ARC of this book.

This feels self-indulgent in the best way. If you're George Saunders and you're known as a master of the short story who's just won the Booker prize for your first novel and you get asked what you're going to do next, you absolutely get to say "I'm going to take the class I teach at Syracuse where I teach Russian short stories to MFAs into a book." As someone who's been a fan of Saunders' writing (both fiction and non-) for a while, I
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Jeff
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I was in university, many years ago, I took a creative writing course. It was a small group of want to be writers who would sit around a table once a week and hash out one another's stories. A few times our professors (there were two of them) would bring in a story and we'd analyze it for how it worked. The remainder of my courses towards an English degree were literature study. Within which we would read a novel, analyze it from a particular perspective (deconstruction, feminist, &c.) or t ...more
Jill Reads
“A Swim in a Pond in the Rain” is an extraordinary book. In it, the author and professor George Saunders teaches us how to dissect literature. He does so by breaking down seven iconic short stories from well-known Russian authors. Then he gives us a lecture—going page by page—to explain what choices each author makes while writing, and how to keep readers interested.

I know I’ll become a better reader as a result of experiencing this book.

“I’m not a critic or a literary historian or an expert on
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Steven
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The last book I finished in 2020 was George Saunders' A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, "In which four Russians [Chekhov, Gogol, Tolstoy, and Turgenev] give a master class on writing, reading, and life." This is a study of a few of the great Russian short stories of the late 19th Century. Saunders digs into why these stories work so well and what went into making such masterpieces of fiction seem, on the surface, to be so simple. Spoiler: they aren't simple at all. The book offers some useful exerci ...more
Dan
Dec 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to Random House and herbal let for a copy of this book.

George Saunders, award winning author and professor at Syracuse University, latest work is a study of Russian short stories and what he feels makes them so worthy of study. In addition its also about Saunders' style, how he came to writing, how he adapted and changed what he wrote, not really a how-to but more of a how it works for him. Saunders breaks down the Russian stories, look at this, imagine if instead we wrote that, why is
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Marion
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You should read this book.

If you need more convincing:
Do you like to write? Of course you do that’s why you’re looking up this book on goodreads. And if you’re looking for a book about writing and why fiction is important you have found it. Saunders is a master. The Russians are, and always will be, magnificent. And this book made me laugh and cry, and that’s all I want in a book. Oh and he’ll give you great writing tips, tricks, exercises, and pep talks.
And when he talks directly to the imagin
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Suellen
Thanks to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for sending me this Advance Reading Copy. Expected publication date is January 12, 2021.

The title pretty much tells what this book is about:

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life

I was thrilled to read that George Saunders and I have something in common - a great appreciation of Russian literature. In this book, he “takes apart” the essence of seven significant Russian short stories as we le
...more
Melanie Conroy-Goldman
This is an exceptional text. It's a master class, as the title says, but also a writer's pep talk, a teacher's blueprint, a work of keen moral sense. I'm teaching it this spring to my Craft of Fiction students, because Saunders says what I always try to teach, but does it better. ...more
manicmousy
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars
Kate  TerHaar
Dec 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020, 5-stars
Ask the right questions while reading and you will discover more from the writing. I learned how to read fiction again thanks to George Saunders.
Amelia
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.35
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George Saunders was born December 2, 1958 and raised on the south side of Chicago. In 1981 he received a B.S. in Geophysical Engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. He worked at Radian International, an environmental engineering firm in Rochester, NY as a technical writer and geophysical engineer from 1989 to 1996. He has also worked in Sumatra on an oil exploration geophysi ...more

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