PODCAST

George Saunders Walks Into a Russian Bathhouse…

BY MEGAN LABRISE • January 12, 2021

New nonfiction from a Booker Prize winner will change the way you write and read.

On this week’s episode, George Saunders discusses A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life (Random House, Jan. 12), in which the beloved author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December gives readers a guided tour of seven timeless short stories.

Saunders has been teaching in Syracuse University’s MFA program for the last 20 years. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he distills the lessons of his popular course on the 19th-century Russian short story in translation for the benefit of readers of all stripes. This master class includes the full text of seven stories by Chekhov, Gogol, Tolstoy, and Turgenev, followed by stimulating commentary by Saunders, who proves an amiable guide to the mechanics of fiction and the mysteries of the human mind (e.g. What makes us care about a character? What makes a story pleasing—or great?).

Kirkus: “As [Saunders] shows throughout this thrilling literary lesson, the answer has little to do with conventional notions of theme and plot; it’s more about energy, efficiency, intentionality, and other ‘details of internal dynamics.’ Saunders explains how what might seem like flaws often work in the story’s favor and how we love some stories even more because of—rather than in spite of—those flaws” (starred review).

In this wide-ranging conversation, Saunders and host Megan Labrise talk about the Russian masters, skaz narrators, whether you need to be a good reader to be a good writer, and much more.

Then editors Vicky Smith, Laura Simeon, Eric Liebetrau, and Tom Beer join with their reading recommendations for the week.

 

Editors’ picks:

Sheepish by Helen Yoon (Candlewick)

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray)

Being Ram Dass by Ram Dass with Rameshwar Das (Sounds True)

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (One World)

Also mentioned in this episode:

The stories of Tatsuya Miyanishi

 

Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.

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