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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class…

– tekijä: George Saunders

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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 10) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
This book guided me on a journey and increased my understanding of why reading has been so central in my life.
It lifted my spirit more than ANY thing I've read over the last 20 years.
I am thankful to have shared time (sometimes wrestling) with these teachings. ( )
  grbeer | May 11, 2021 |
  chrisvia | Apr 30, 2021 |
Delightful!... First of all, what an interesting format! This book is two things: (a) - it is an unusual master class on writing, and it really makes you wish you had the talent for writing, yet it also complements the reader and confirms the tight connection between reader and writer (even so, Saunders clearly warns that it's not a "how-to" book on writing, he would never want to limit talent with some stringent rules); and (b) - he examines at great length 7 short stories by classical giants of Russian literature of the 19th century (their styles, their ideas and opinions - everything, in great detail). And he ruminates on the big life's questions - "You know, those cheerful, Russian kinds of big questions", he says, with a sparkle in his eyes, I can feel...

I found myself reading Saunders's chapters with the same eagerness as the short stories themselves (by the 4 great Russian writers) that are interspersed throughout the book. And that's saying a lot! His love of writing/literature is very invigorating, his enthusiasm is undaunted! His take on the Russians (Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol, Turgenev) presented here, is amazingly clever, thoughtful, profound. He goes to the extent of sharing the same passage by different translators, and we can see how differently Russian words are perceived by them (being a native Russian speaker, it was quite an eye-opener for me to witness...). Saunders admits that Gogol's stories, for instance, may read especially differently in Russian (than even in the best ever translation) ... And I can testify that others do, too. But notwithstanding these peculiarities - of things "untranslatable" - Saunders's enthusiasm is never diminished.

Saunders must be a superb professor in actual, live class! It goes without saying that I shall never look at another piece of writing (Russian or not, short story or not) with the same eyes again. What great imagination, what great use of it!!! And not just that: it's honest, intelligent writing, very witty but sincerely and lovingly so - towards the classical writers under discussion! - as well as his great analytical thinking: he distributes everything ever so cleverly and neatly on the shelves. His examples and comparisons are unusual and very engaging.

As for the writers, just look at this little quote from his assessment of Chekhov: "He was a doctor, and his approach to fiction feels lovingly diagnostic. Walking into the examination room, finding Life sitting there, he seems to say: "Wonderful, let's see what's going on!"... (It couldn't be said any better!!!)

... And - he goes on (about Chekhov) - " But that's what we love about him... In a world full of people who seem to know everything, passionately, based on little (often slanted) information, where certainty is often mistaken for power, what a relief it is to be in the company of someone, confident enough to stay unsure (that is, perpetually curious)... We have to stay open (easy to say in the confident New Age way, but so hard to actually do, in the face of the grinding, terrifying life). As we watch Chekhov continually, ritually doubt all conclusions, we're comforted. It's all right to reconsider. It's noble - holy even. It can be done. We can do it. We know this because of the example he leaves in his stories, which are, we might say, splendid, brief reconsideration machines ".

Saunders says this about Tolstoy: "It's not a stretch to say that his fiction changed the way human beings think about themselves". I find myself agreeing fully.

After reading this book, I will probably find ANY book I read next (by anybody) a little underwhelming - just because this one was such a wonderful read! Need to explore more by George Saunders, that's for sure. ( )
1 ääni Clara53 | Apr 27, 2021 |
This book is a gift! If, and only if, your dream is to be a student in the classroom of the astounding author, George Saunders, then this book is a dream come true. The author/professor takes the reader through the process of understanding the writing of a short story. I have never really pondered what it is that drives me to turn the page to continue reading, or what type of transactional relationship exists between writer and reader. So, if you are intrigued, run to the nearest bookstore and get this book. You will devour it. However, if literature/writing class sounds like a torturous experience, don't bother. ( )
1 ääni hemlokgang | Apr 20, 2021 |
It is such a pleasure to spend a few hours in George Saunders’ company. Here he shares a taster of what he has learned over the past 20 years teaching the 19th century Russian short story in the creative writing programme at Syracuse University. He is a thoughtful but challenging reader. And since he reads as a writer, he is constantly wondering why the writer of the story wrote that, or included that section, or didn’t tell us this but did tell us that, and so on. He is sensitive to even slight potential misunderstandings and fully aware that he is reading works in translation, yet marvelling that, even so, their strengths show through.

Seven stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol are presented in full and then considered at length. In each case, Saunders then offers an afterthought, which may challenge or even reverse his previous opinion. Revision, both in reading and in writing, is the key message. Though it might be better to say that, “Find your own writerly voice,” is the real message. However, revision — lots of it iterated over a lengthy period — is probably the quickest route to finding that voice. So the method, it seems, is to read great literature, think about what it says and how it says it, and then do the same thing with your own writing until it won’t bear further revision (and still have your voice). Saunders modestly acknowledges that this won’t be especially new advice for writers. Still, it is very encouraging to go through the process with him.

This isn’t a manual on how to write short stories. Nevertheless, almost any writer (or reader) could benefit from working with George Saunders. His gentle humanism, touching anecdotes about his own writing, and cautious advice on precisely what it is that writing fiction can actually accomplish anyway, serve as a fine model for the kind of mentorship many of us rather wish we’d had at some point (and through this book have found, in a way).

Warmly recommended for all writers and readers. ( )
1 ääni RandyMetcalfe | Apr 20, 2021 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 10) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
Please publish your work on NovelStar. For sure a lot of readers will love your work. There are also a lot of talented writers in the platform that you might want to work with.
lisäsi Mello.Marsh | muokkaaLibraryThing.com
 
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