Based on a class he has taught for years at Syracuse University, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is George Saunders at his best: funny, frank, rigorous yet accessible, and most of all humane. Paired with the full text of the author’s favorite stories by Anton Chekhov, Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, and Nikolai Gogol, these essays explore not only how fiction works and why fiction written up to 185 years ago (in the case of Gogol’s “The Nose”) is as relevant now as it has ever been, but also how writing can change a reader’s life and become a fundamental part of one’s moral and ethical beliefs. As Saunders writes: “The part of the mind that reads a story is also the part of the mind that reads the world; it can deceive us, but it can also be trained to accuracy; it can fall into disuse and make us more susceptible to lazy, violent, materialistic forces, but it can also be urged back to life, transforming us into more active, curious, alert readers of reality.”
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