steering the craft

Better writer, better person?

change conflict morality Apr 14, 2022
 
The truism that reading makes us better people is well explored, but does writing make us better people? I argue yes. Here’s why.

I’ve been reading George Saunders’ terrific collection of essays about Russian short fiction, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain. It’s a book about what makes writing good with an interesting limitation, which is that the work held up for analysis is offered in English translation and Saunders doesn’t speak Russian. 

Saunders notes the shakiness of the project when he describes the day a Russian scholar visits his classroom to explain how the tale currently under examination reads in the original Russian. 

Saunders and his students are flabbergasted to confront just how much of the author’s intent has been lost to them. The jokes! The wordplay! The voice! None of it survives intact. The version of the story they’re scrutinizing for clues about good...

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