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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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Can one live a good life by trying to be good, to do good, like the servant girl, who clearly makes those around her happy? Son como los hijos: antes de que nazcan uno sabe exactamente cómo van a ser —perfectos, adorables, inteligentes, ¿cómo podrían ser de otra forma? It is about knowing that life is full of tragedy, but feeling that a person cannot do much but live in full swing. But I enjoyed it that way, exploring what Saunders loves about them as he champions their storycraft and beauty.

He talks about the difference between technical skill and true beauty in art and the way this collides in Turgenev's story. A creative writing class, taught through the lens of understanding and appreciating Russian literature, therefore, was a little up my alley. The title essay, “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain” is a study of Anton Chekhov’s transcendent story, “Gooseberries. It is obvious the happy person feels this way only because the unhappy ones carry their burden in silence, and without this silence the happiness would be impossible. 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.Forgoing lofty academic concepts, Saunders focuses on just the important stuff: What makes a story work? Good writing works in intricate relationship with a reader’s expectations, raising them and leading them on, then sidestepping or surpassing them. His effort at that moment of writing, in the midst of all his “repetitive choosing” (which is what makes the story work), is subordinated to the vision in his mind’s eye, which holds still for him even as he labours to bring it into being. For one, it was incredibly interesting to read Saunders' own perspectives on these oft-analysed stories.

Does Drakkar Noir tell you what combination of smells one needs to smear all over themselves to make themselves irresistible to women everywhere? For another, he goes into detail about his own writing process, which was probably my favourite part to read.

Their passion for literature (evident in their questions from the floor, our talks at the signing table, the conversations I've had with book clubs) has convinced me that there's a vast underground network for goodness at work in the world---a web of people who've put reading at the center of their lives because they know from experience that reading makes them more expansive, generous people and makes their lives more interesting. What fiction means in the world and how it connects us, puts us in some “other” person’s shoes, makes us less afraid of some “other” - the humanity of the craft, the masters, and the professor are wonderful. A book that achieves exactly what it sets out to, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is essentially a writing class in book form. It’s just a matter of: (1) noticing ourselves responding to a work of art, moment by moment, and (2) getting better at articulating that response. Can one live a good life by retreating from the world, living in a country house, eating gooseberries?

This book makes us appreciate the whole process of writing even more than we already do and pays tribute to those who give us pleasure and food for thought with their every (painstakingly crafted) sentence. And as someone who hasn’t read a lot of Russian short fiction — and also as someone who doesn’t feel like I always understood what I did read — this book entertainingly filled voids in my education of which I was only vaguely aware. It is to Saunders’ credit and his innate intelligence that, despite all, he sensed that something would not be quite right in abandoning the warm feelings about Olenka (“the more I know about her, the less inclined I feel to pass a too-harsh or premature judgment.There is no strengths to continue living, but in any case one needs to live and one really wants to live!

Es lo que él llama escalar los acontecimientos: cada frase añade algo más a lo anterior, el relato nunca se está quieto. And the next is a few parts that I took away that completely meshes with my views of the meaning of life. And that, by extrapolation, every person in the world has his or her inner orchestra, and the instruments present in their orchestras are, roughly speaking, the same as the ones in ours. The servant girl is, in Saunders’s view, “a reminder that beauty is an unavoidable, essential part of life; it keeps showing up and we keep responding to it, our theoretical positions notwithstanding, and if we ever stop responding to it, we have become more corpse than person. En realidad, yo también me voy a contradecir; para Saunders sí hay una regla: leer lo que has escrito, leerlo y releerlo, cada vez como si no lo hubieras escrito tú, o tratando de sentir lo que sentiría otra persona al leerlo por primera vez.In my opinion, Gogol stands out with his unique ability to create distinctive voices in his prose and in his anticipation of the 20s century absurdism. This kind of reading (one of the best kinds, I’m convinced) tracks the author’s intentions – and missed intentions, and intuitions, and instinctive recoil from what’s banal or obvious – so closely and intimately, at every step, through every sentence. For an excellent review discussing more about the individual stories and Saunder's approach, read Katia's thoughts: https://www. 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.

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