Reading and Writing With Intention in A Swim In A Pond In The Rain by George Saunders

a swim in a pond in the rain

My Review:

Not my typical read but glad I took it on with my book club. A Swim in the Pond in the Rain is a collection of 7 fictional short stories by Russian authors with analysis by George Saunders, the bestselling author of Lincoln in the Bardo. Saunders teaches a Russian short stories class at Syracuse University and this book is the essence of his teachings – he shares what he has discovered through the essays of Gogol, Chekhov, Turgenev and Tolstoy with all of us. A writing and reading class all rolled into this book, Saunders gives us ideas about what to take notice of while we read, how stories are structured, what they teach us about ourselves and the world and ultimately to appreciate these Russian authors and their well written essays. He talks about what makes a story good and keeps the reader reading and feeling satisfied. Some of the essays are more engaging than others, but A Swim in the Pond in the Rain is a perfect book for book clubs who want to discuss the art of writing as well as what to look for when reading.

Saunders dissects each short story to examine its physics, to assess the elements of the story; is there cause and effect, is there a reliable narrator, is the reader moved, is all the action specific and efficient, is the author showing and not just telling? You will undoubtably earn something new about the craft of writing by spending time with A Swim in the Pond in the Rain. My favorite short stories Saunders discusses are Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy and In The Cart by Anton Chekhov… no need to tackle all the chapters at once; read one at a time and take in nuggets of information and observation, discuss with others and you will be happy you did!

Thank you to for publishing my review!
George Saunders

About the Author:

George Saunders was born December 2, 1958 and raised on the south side of Chicago. In 1981 he received a B.S. in Geophysical Engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. He worked at Radian International, an environmental engineering firm in Rochester, NY as a technical writer and geophysical engineer from 1989 to 1996. He has also worked in Sumatra on an oil exploration geophysics crew, as a doorman in Beverly Hills, a roofer in Chicago, a convenience store clerk, a guitarist in a Texas country-and-western band, and a knuckle-puller in a West Texas slaughterhouse. 

After reading in People magazine about the Master’s program at Syracuse University, he applied. Mr. Saunders received an MA with an emphasis in creative writing in 1988. His thesis advisor was Doug Unger.

He has been an Assistant Professor, Syracuse University Creative Writing Program since 1997. He has also been a Visiting Writer at Vermont Studio Center, University of Georgia MayMester Program, University of Denver, University of Texas at Austin, St. Petersburg Literary Seminar (St. Petersburg, Russia, Summer 2000), Brown University, Dickinson College, Hobart & William Smith Colleges. 

He conducted a Guest Workshop at the Eastman School of Music, Fall 1995, and was an Adjunct Professor at Saint John Fisher College, Rochester, New York, 1990-1995; and Adjunct Professor at Siena College, Loudonville, New York in Fall 1989.

He is married and has two children.

His favorite charity is a project to educate Tibetan refugee children in Nepal. Information on this can be found at…


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