Book Review – 2/14/21

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders (2021, Random House)

I try to review one nonfiction and one fiction book each week. This week’s selection fills both slots. It contains seven short stories by Russian masters and uses those works to instruct the reader about the art of writing and the subtleties of reading. The book is subtitled “In which four Russians give a master class on writing, reading, and life”, and Saunders undersells his contribution.

I am incapable of writing a bad review for this book, because of the circumstances surrounding its purchase. An author named Steve Rasnic Tem has won a variety of awards for his work, most of which falls into the horror category. I was alerted to the existence of A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by Mr. Tem publicly proclaiming it to be the most valuable book on the art of writing he’d encountered.

This had the same effect on me as hearing Neal Peart, the legendary drummer for Rush, speak about learning how to become a better drummer by studying with a master after the first ten or so Rush albums. When someone who is among the best in their field provides effusive praise to an instructor, respect should be afforded.

Thus, even had I found no personal value to the book I would have provided a caveat explaining that an expert disagreed with my assessment. Fortunately, I don’t have to do that. The book, for me, is almost as good as Tem stated.

The book, which stems from a course Saunders teaches yearly to a select group of promising young writers, uses a variety of Russian stories to explain the writing process as regards short fiction. Disparaging such traditional foci as plot for being overly broad, he instead presents each element of effective fiction writing and attempts to anticipate the questions and responses of the reader. Through this mechanism, he manages to emulate the teacher/student relationship found in his yearly instructional groups.

If you want to become a more attentive reader, this is an excellent place to start. If you wish to become an expert short story writer, the book may be similarly helpful. While I can’t be as definitive with the second statement as I am with the first, I have it on excellent authority both are true.

About the opinions in this article…

Any opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website or of the other authors/contributors who write for it.

About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. how to clean mr coffee machine? – Coffee Tea Room

Comments are closed.