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 stories written by Russian writers: “In the Cart”, “The Darling”, and “Gooseberries” by Anton Chekhov; “The Singers” by Ivan Turgenev; “Master and Man” and “Alyosha the Pot” by Leo Tolstoy; and “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol. After each story, Saunders gives his thoughts and notes on the previous story. That’s really all there is to the book.
Not that that is a bad thing.
Saunders’ energy and passion for them is clearly evident. He uses these stories in his Masters level class about short story writing (sidebar: How awesome would it be to take a class from George Saunders??). He peppers in stories from his classes, discussions they had, observations, all that stuff. The stories are excellent. However, I found myself enjoying Saunders’ writing more than the actual short stories. But, let’s be honest, I didn’t pick this up to read dead white guys.
I picked this up to read one alive white guy.
The first section is probably my favorite. Saunders does an exercise that he does with his students where he only lets them read one page at a time and they discuss it in length before moving onto the next one. It’s a really cool way to breakdown a story and you really get a lot out of it by doing it that way.
Overall, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a really meaty read with lots of insight from a master of writing. I highly recommend this for aspiring writers, especially short story writers who may have had issues getting published. There’s a lot of great information about how to push your story to the next level. 5/5, 9/10
Thanks again to NetGalley for letting me read an advance copy from my favorite author! Make sure you pick this up on January 12, 2021.