Saturday, March 11, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

Have you ever wanted to go back to college and take a literature class? Maybe one on short stories? How about one on classic Russian short stories, for example, works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol? If so, I highly recommend George Saunders’ book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain. (Subtitled In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life.)

Based on a class that Saunders (the author of Lincoln in the Bardo) teaches at Syracuse University, the book presents a series of classic short stories and then demonstrates how they can be read critically to extract more meaning. Saunders discusses how short stories are constructed and why the writer may have made the decisions he did. It’s a fascinating way to look inside a literature course as well as to read and appreciate some great classic short fiction.

Saunders writes engagingly and encouragingly, making these Russian masters more approachable. A highly recommended reading experience.

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