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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… (urspr publ 2021; utgåvan 2021)

av George Saunders (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
4261545,668 (4.41)21
Medlem:e1ghtfold
Titel:A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life
Författare:George Saunders (Författare)
Info:Random House (2021), Edition: First Edition, Later Printing, 432 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:****
Taggar:Ingen/inga

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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain av George Saunders (2021)

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Visa 1-5 av 15 (nästa | visa alla)
I found this George Saunders book on writing to be very curious, as his observations and comments are nearly priceless. He says of it, “This is a book for writers but also, I hope, for readers.” He also explains his inspiration. “For the last twenty years, at Syracuse University, I’ve been teaching a class in the nineteenth-century Russian short story in translation.” He decided to write this book after realizing all that those classes meant to him. “I’ve had the realization that some of the best moments of my life, the moments during which I’ve really felt myself offering something of value to the world, have been spent teaching that Russian class.”

Each semester his small class would read about thirty stories and then look into how they worked, what motivated the author, and what those Russian masters were attempting to bring to their readers. “What we’re going to be doing here, essentially, is watching ourselves read.” “The basic drill I’m proposing here is: read the story, then turn your mind to the experience you’ve just had.” He would have them read a page at a time and then discuss it, which is how he starts out handling the first story in the book. After he makes the following observation on this practice, he allow the book’s readers to read longer and longer sections of the stories. “One of the features of this page-at-a-time exercise: the better the story, the more curious the reader is to find out what’s going to happen and the more annoying the exercise is.”

I loved how he got to the book’s final conclusions and simply said that all he knows, is how he writes and what works for him. I’m always afraid that teachers will start claiming that their hard-and-fast rules that work for everyone, every single time are perfect and faultless. The book contains seven Russian stories: “In the Cart,” “The Darling,” “Gooseberries” by Chekhov; “Master and Man,” “Alyosha the Pot” by Tolstoy; “The Singers” by Turgenev; and “The Nose” by Gogol. I have a collected stories of Gogol on a book wishlist that I may order just on the strength of “The Nose.” It’s a stunning piece of writing.

Just for some cheap thrills, I’ll share these wise and amusing lines sprinkled throughout the book.
“The secret of boring people,” Chekhov said, “Lies in telling them everything.”
“Money, like vodka, can do queer things to a man.”
“A story is a series of incremental pulses, each of which does something to us.”
“A story with a problem is like a person with a problem: interesting. As we read a story (let’s imagine) we’re dragging along a cart labeled “Things I Couldn’t Help Noticing” (TICHN).”
“My first semester as a grad student at Syracuse, one of our professors, the great short story writer Tobias Wolff, gave a reading, one of the first I’d ever been to. Rather than reading from his own work, he read us some Chekhov.”
And one I think is killer. “Gogol was strange creature,” Nabokov wrote, “but genius is always strange.”

Even if you never ever intend to write your own short story, reading this book will not only give you a chance to read some wonderful stories, but also to be impressed by an agile and gifted mind explaining what a writer does to, and for his readers. ( )
  jphamilton | Jul 13, 2021 |
A book to make the embryonic author in me become alert and uncomfortably ambitious and myself anxious. 7 stories by 4 authors with their clear strengths, possible weaknesses and strange ambiguities are presented and examined and loved. ( )
1 rösta quondame | Jun 29, 2021 |
Truly a masterclass in short story criticism. The commentary can almost stand alone from the Russian picks he made. ( )
1 rösta albertgoldfain | Jun 29, 2021 |
I have written a whole heap on posts about this book, tackling each of the seven Russian stories one by one. You can find them on my blog with this tag https://anzlitlovers.com/tag/a-swim-in-a-pond-in-the-rain/
Overall, I thought the stories were great (four stars) and Saunders thoughts about them less so (three stars).
Which just shows you how silly it is rate books and one day I'm going to stop doing it... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jun 24, 2021 |
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 rösta JulieStielstra | May 17, 2021 |
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» Lägg till fler författare (7 möjliga)

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Saunders, Georgeprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Chekhov, AntonBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Gogol, NikolaiBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Tolstoy, LeoBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Turgenev, IvanBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
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