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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: From the Man Booker Prize-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Lincoln in the Bardo

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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain,” is drawn from the lectures Saunders delivers year after year to his graduate writing students at Syracuse University in his Russian Literature in Translation class. Over the last ten years I've had a chance to give readings and talks all over the world and meet thousands of dedicated readers. In many ways, thus, a lot of Saunders' analysis and writing was a bit of a repetition of what I've already learnt (like the process of revision - Who cares if the first draft is good? Listening felt like sitting in a fantastic lecture hall with my favorite literature professor, and now I want a physical copy for making notes. And alas, the Summer I was planning traveling abroad through Europe seems to be falling through as every time I mention it to my dear wife steam shoots out of both her ears and her face turns an alarming shade of red.

Saunders’s insights into what makes them work and why they are considered great pieces of art were also interesting—and often very funny. The result is an uptick in our attentiveness; subtly rebuffed by the story, we get, we might say, a new respect for its truthfulness.George Saunders is the author of nine books, including the novel Lincoln in the Bardo, which won the Man Booker P Quieter instruments are allowed to come to the fore; our usual blaring beliefs are asked to sit quietly, horns in their laps. The poet proves that language is inadequate by throwing herself at the fence of language and being bound by it. How are we supposed to live with joy in a world that seems to want us to love other people but then roughly separates us from them in the end, no matter what? She felt as though she had been living in these parts for a long, long time, for a hundred years, and it seemed to her that she knew every stone, every tree on the road from the town to her school.

But like a novel, it also has some space to breathe, to digress, even if only for a brief moment, to let us mull in the mud of the mundane, in the numbers of the tax man, in the slow time it takes to cut an apple into slices. Now Saunders has developed as essays some of the thoughts arising from those classes, and put them together into a book alongside the stories he’s discussing – by Chekhov, Tolstoy, Turgenev and Gogol.It could happen in more intimate settings, too, as in a small class of 20 boxed off in a room looking remarkably like high school classrooms (only with a few tendrils of ivy curling in from the bricks outside the window). Yes, it sounds like it would be tedious, banal, tiresome, irksome, but, no, it's the complete opposite of that. It’s kind of crazy but that’s the whole game: a) becoming convinced that there is a voice inside you that really, really knows what it likes, and b) getting better at hearing that voice and acting on its behalf. This focus on process can sound occasionally like a reductive functionalism – each detail is there because it makes the story work. It seems to me that Saunders thinks that Ivan is a bit of a hypocrite on the basis that he enjoys his swim and is content while preaching the impossibility of happiness.

My daughter and I are also both writing (parallel) stories this summer based on our trip to the Southland to complete our having visited all fifty US States!After each, he steps us through how he reads them and how to feel them (not what to feel but what to think about), figure out what the authors are doing, what they might have done differently, and why the stories work just as they are. And that many times, he lets it lead him to where he's meant to go, as opposed to the other way around. We are experiencing delays with deliveries to many countries, but in most cases local services have now resumed.

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