“A condensed version of a class Saunders teaches, this reads like a playful but serious lecture that will change how you think about short stories. Or, at the very least, how you think about Russian short stories (if you thought of them previously, which you should have, because Chekhov).
While the Classics might seem a strange place to learn something new about writing, Saunders brilliantly considers and evokes how these seven stories speak to our current lives. He shares what it is writers today can steal—his word—from what many consider great works.
With the seven stories printed together, Saunders guides a conversation about them and between them like a roundtable on joy and suffering and humanity.”
From the New York Times bestselling, Booker Prize-winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December, a literary masterclass on what makes great stories work, how to become both a better writer and reader, and what they can tell us about how to live.
In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, George Saunders guides the reader through seven classic Russian short stories he’s been teaching for twenty years as a professor in the prestigious Syracuse University graduate MFA creative writing program. Paired with stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, these essays are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever in these turbulent times.
Saunders approaches each of these 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. For the process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is as much a craft as it is a quality of openness and a willingness to see the world through new eyes.
Funny, frank, and rigorous, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain ultimately shows how great fiction can change a person’s life and become a benchmark of one’s moral and ethical beliefs.