A Swim in a Pond in the Rain (Paperback)
  • A Swim in a Pond in the Rain (Paperback)

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain (Paperback)

Paperback 432 Pages
Published: 19/04/2022
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Waterstones Says

Opening up the classics of Russian literature to a wider audience, Saunders provides commentary on seven classic short stories from the likes of Chekhov and Tolstoy, and provides astute observations on how fiction functions.

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. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years.

Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it's more relevant than ever in these turbulent times. In his introduction, Saunders writes, "We're going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn't fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art-namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?"

He approaches the 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. The process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is a technical craft, but also a way of training oneself to see the world with new openness and curiosity.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a deep exploration not just of how great writing works but of how the mind itself works while reading, and of how the reading and writing of stories make genuine connection possible.

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 9781526624246
Number of pages: 432
Weight: 350 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 mm


A wonderful book … This book is a delight … I love the warmth with which he writes about this teaching, and agree wholeheartedly … All this makes Saunders’s book very different from just another “how to” creative writing manual, or just another critical essay … One of the pleasures of this book is feeling his own thinking move backwards and forwards, between the writer dissecting practice and the reader entering in through the spell of the words, to dwell inside the story - Tessa Hadley, Guardian

Saunders is such a wise and amiable teacher ... A page-turner - Robert Webb

Luminously perceptive - Guardian

A masterclass in how to be human ... unfailingly, often thrillingly illuminating … Published any time, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain would be a joyous reminder that fiction is “the most effective mode of mind-to-mind communication ever devised”. Published now, it feels like vital and civilising corrective to the pretend certainties of public life – and, increasingly, of our personal lives too - Telegraph

It will stay with you and transform how you read story by story, sentence by sentence - The Times, Best Paperbacks of 2022

One of the most accurate and beautiful depictions of what it is like to be inside the mind of a writer that I’ve ever read - New York Times

The Russian greats truly shine in this account; but Saunders is the real star. His way of expressing himself is simultaneously supremely intellectual and jovially down-to-earth. It’s rare to read a book and love it so much that you think it’s simply perfect. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is that book - Viv Groskop, Spectator

Joins a long tradition of using Russian literature as a guide to life … Practical and playful … it also probes exactly how narrative techniques make us more alert, attentive and sympathetic in reading books and the world around us - i news

By the end Saunders is wondering if there is indeed any point in writing at all. I won’t spoil his conclusion. Suffice to say, the hairs on the back of my neck were alert - The Times

Suffused with wry humour … Not an academic interpretation, but a reader’s companion. I was pleasurably absorbed from start to finish - Evening Standard

The Booker-winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo considers the art of fiction through seven classic Russian short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Gogol - Guardian, 2021 in Books

The combination of Saunders’s piercing mind and the Russian subjects being Anton Chekhov, Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy and Nikolai Gogol promises to be a highbrow treat for fans of literature, and a book offering deep insights into storytelling and how narrative functions - Independent, The books to look out for in 2021

A literary masterclass - Evening Standard, A look ahead to the best new books in 2021

But the real star of A Swim isn't Chekhov or Turgenev or Tolstoy or Gogol - it's Saunders himself ... This book will quite simply make you a better, more observant and more understanding reader - Big Issue

Part intro to Russian literature, part musings on craft, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is all pleasure - Financial Times

A worship song to writers and readers - O, The Oprah Magazine

His warmth, enthusiasm and homespun metaphors – all part of that “writerly charm” – banish any sense of the chilly, mechanistic Fiction Lab ... Gleefully overshoots its brief as a technical manual or how-to guide … A Swim in a Pond in the Rain generates more fun, more wit, more sympathetic sense, than we have any right to hope for from a 400-page critical study - Arts Desk

There should be more books like this - Sameer Rahim, Prospect Podcast

A masterclass from a warm and engagingly enthusiastic companion - Guardian, 50 hottest new books everyone should read

A masterclass in short fiction by one of the finest teachers alive… It is a joyously civilised primer on how to write – and live – better - Daily Telegraph

Warm, playful and acutely perceptive - Ian Leslie, New Statesman, Books of the Year

Not just astute, humane lit crit but an inspirational manifesto for the art of fiction - Boyd Tonkin, Spectator, Books of the Year

A masterclass in writing … a real treat - Naomi Alderman, Spectator, Books of the Year

[I] loved George Saunders’s A Swim in a Pond in the Rain … Genial, generous and illuminating ... He is a great teacher as well as a great practitioner, and makes you see more - Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year 2021

A tin of caviar sort of a book … Saunders guides, prods, nudges, urges you to disagree … It will stay with you and transform how you read story by story, sentence by sentence - Sunday Times, 24 best fiction books 2021

Delightful as well as an engaging work-out for the brain. Just the thing for a New Year’s read - i paper

In clear, fresh, often humorous language, Saunders reveals the various sleights of hand involved in their construction, while never trying to flatten their essential genius. A gem - Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

Joyful and playful, a book full of wisdom, one to drink in slowly - Independent (Online), The 20 Best Books of 2021

An eagle-eyed breakdown of short stories by four great Russian writers - Prospect, Best books of 2021

Saunders is warm and vivacious company, funny and even-handed and increasingly wise … This book is an enthralling delve into life and its narration – for people interested in how fiction works, it’s like breathing oxygen - Revew31, Books of the Year 2021

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“The best book on writing”

This is the most life affirming non fiction book I’ve read. Saunders has that Tolstoyan tenderness. His writing encouragingly takes you by the hand and says “you got this, kid. you’re doing good. everything is gonna... More

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