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“Nothing has been read its last rites more frequently than the American short story. George Saunders proves, yet again, to be the form’s one-man defibrillator.” (Harper’s Magazine)

“One of the most gifted, wickedly entertaining story writers around.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“Subversive, hilarious, and emotionally piercing . . . Few writers can encompass that range of adjectives, but Saunders is a true original—restlessly inventive, yet deeply humane.”—Jennifer Egan “The best short-story writer in English—not ‘one of,’ not ‘arguably,’ but the Best.” (Mary Karr, Time)

あらすじ・解説

From the New York Times best-selling, 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 20 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. 

This audiobook includes a PDF of the tables, outlines, figures, and appendices from the book.

©2021 George Saunders (P)2021 Random House Audio

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  • 総合評価
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ナレーション
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ストーリー
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Scott Garrioch
  • 2021/01/14

An innovative and fresh listening experience

Saunders has a knack for oration and it feels like he's holding class in your head. A true privilege to be his pupil as he raises Chekhov's gun and shows us what all the bullets are for. As a teacher of lit myself I have picked up a ton of analysis and new understanding. The art of short story becomes nothing less than mankind's best religion through this type of exploration. Saunders nails a Gladwellian approach that feels like a hybrid textbook, podcast, and motivational self help book... With wonderfully performed stories narrated by pros. The whole experience is creatively edited. My best audiobook experience in ages.

  • 総合評価
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ナレーション
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ストーリー
    5 out of 5 stars
  • njwxyz
  • 2021/01/22

Just Superb!

I found this master class extremely interesting and informative. Not just with regards to the mechanics of fiction, but in life and relationships. The author/narrator is a superb guide.

I have been reading fiction all my life, but now I have a much better understanding of it and how different elements relate and bring meaning, or maybe purpose, to a story. Anyway... even as a non-author, I found it extremely interesting. Thanks, George. :)

  • 総合評価
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ナレーション
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ストーリー
    5 out of 5 stars
  • DiLea
  • 2021/01/28

For everyone

This book is a gift. It is for readers and writers and anyone who needs what stories give us: a ride into the mind of another person. Whatever your notion of the book is, it is better, sweeter, more mystical.

The audio version is especially wonderful since it performs nineteenth-century stories that contemporary readers might find hard going. Gogol, Tergenev, but especially stories by Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy are carefully unlocked and reflected on by George Saunders . You can feel love and wonder in his voice as he talks to us about all the ways these stories are relevant and necessary.
You could say that this is a book about writing—or the craft of writing— written by a master of the form. But at its core this is a book about reading, carefully and thoughtfully in order to understand something essential about what living is for.

  • 総合評価
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ナレーション
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ストーリー
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Delphine C. Lucas
  • 2021/02/24

What a Delight

I love reading the famous Russian writers and I also love to read short stories. I had not read any of these stories in this collection before, so everything was new. I liked hearing the six stories read by different performers, and I enjoyed hearing each story analyzed by George Saunders. I always wanted to take a college class like this one, but there is nothing like that where I live. I am a reader and not a writer, but always interested in what makes writing compelling, so I occasionally read books by some of my favorite authors on how to write. Each story spoke personally to me, especially The Singer, as I am a musician and was going through a rough patch at the time of listening to this story. It helped me reorient myself again to play music from the heart, as these great Russian writers write from the heart. I really enjoyed this book.

  • 総合評価
    1 out of 5 stars
  • ナレーション
    1 out of 5 stars
  • ストーリー
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021/03/22

Textbook without the text.

Awful. This is a collection of essays about stories and is not in any way meant to be entertaining. But even if you wanted a masturbatory writing textbook, this fails to accomplish even that; the introduction clearly states that you should read the stories before the essays, but six of the seven stories aren't included at all, and the one that is occurs after the essay about it.

  • 総合評価
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ナレーション
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ストーリー
    5 out of 5 stars
  • beth
  • 2021/03/19

Delightful Stories, Thoughtful Reflections, Helpful Teachings

George Saunders did not write a boring treatise on how to write. Instead, he wrote from his own perspective from years of thinking and discussing, but also wrote that he urges you to take with a grain of salt. I listened to the book wishing that I’d had more of a chance to take notes on his “afterthought” chapters, which I found super insightful as someone who hasn’t studied writing as much as I wish I’ve had, but the closing essay ended up making me feel confident that if I follow my own instincts, spend lots of time writing and re-writing, my work will go in the direction my work needs to. He has a deep respect for stories, and that we should observe what the stories want to become. This is exactly what I try to do in my art practice, and seem to always forget: that the work knows, you just have to listen to it. So George Saunders is not preaching a specific methodology, unless we define that methodology as “I don’t know, because I’m not you.” But also, he kind of does know. Because he’s selected for us works of Russian literature that have a lot to teach us, including maybe “what not to do”, which Saunders makes excellent use of. A very worthwhile read, not to mention excellent voice acting!! The casting was excellent— each actor brought the exact right energy to the stories. I almost feel bad for people who didn’t listen to the audiobook. I definitely intend to revisit this audiobook, and I’ll maybe even buy the hard copy so it’s easier to flip back to certain sections.

  • 総合評価
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ナレーション
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ストーリー
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Neil I. Steinberg
  • 2021/03/18

First rate course in literature and writing.

I came to this having read "Lincoln in the Bardo," and loved the format—classic Russian short stories, which themselves are gems, explained and expanded upon by Saunders, who teaches writing at Syracuse University. Some of the stories I had read before, but didn't get nearly as much out of them previously as i did now in this context. More than instruction in crafting fiction, there is also much about just living life and being a good person. I recommend this book highly. Saunders also reads the book well, and some of the short story readers are simply wonderful.

  • 総合評価
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ナレーション
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ストーリー
    5 out of 5 stars
  • David S.
  • 2021/03/12

A Master Class by a master of fiction writing

George Saunders tells us at the end of the book that he is 61 and wondering if he should still devote his life to the writing of fiction. He has taught these seven stories for twenty years but still finds them a source of inspiration and still struggles with them. Fiction is worth his time, all of it, his life in fact, and he says it worth our attention as well if not our complete devotion as he has made it.

There are two audiences for this book. Writers and would be writers can learn from Saunders how he works and how he thinks others can be successful. In summary do what is fun and instinctual for you. He relates his own experience of becoming successful to himself and ultimately others, when rather suddenly he began to write stories set in amusement parks. In those settings he could allow himself to use a voice of mocking corporatise that is his alone, full of dark humor and interior monologues. Have fun but focus he says on your own reactions to your words and change them repeatedly until they feel right to your inner critic.

The book is also written for those of us who are just readers. Saunders's essays on each of the stories show the depth of his literary knowledge and the scope of interpretation available for each. Using the writer's perspective, he asks why the author made the choices there on the page, and asks what alternatives might have been rejected. Through this technique he shows us how the stories create the impact they have on their readers, and in particular, on him.

I admit I love George Saunders's writing which I have consumed through his audio books beginning with The 10th of December and then Lincoln in The Bardo, more recently with the story collections he committed to audio only in the last few years. I highly recommend this book and all the others.

  • 総合評価
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ナレーション
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ストーリー
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Michael Troiano
  • 2021/03/02

Eye opening, mind opening.

I have a love-hate relationship with fiction, seeing it both a source of truth and sometimes, deep down - a poor use of time. Saunders' introduction of these Russian classics, his analysis of the craft behind them and warm, welcoming insight to their universal humanity, moved me forward in some way, to better appreciate and value what great fiction has to offer. I'm consciously grateful for this book, something I've not often felt on completing one. It's a book that will stick with you, that will shape your choices as a reader and a writer for some time to come.

  • 総合評価
    4 out of 5 stars
  • ナレーション
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ストーリー
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Susan C Ritchey
  • 2021/03/02

A Refreshing Dip for a Newbie

As a first timer to Russian short stories, I loved hearing the story narrations and George Saunders’ deep perspective on my daily walk. I listened to one story a day, so I could really let it sink in. The story narrators were great and I loved learning about the process of writing fiction and the idea that writers are meant to write the stories only they can, based on what they like, as if the story pulls itself out of the writer. It reminds me of the Rumi aphorism “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.”