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Trying to Save Piggy Sneed

3.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,356 Ratings  ·  187 Reviews
One dozen short works by the best-selling author of The World According to Garp include the title piece, a loving portrait of the author's grandmother, and additional stories under such headings as "The Pension Grillparzer" and "Dinner at the White House."
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published February 14th 1996 by Arcade Publishing (first published 1993)
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I'm a huge fan of at least half of John Irving's fiction titles, so it pains me greatly to say I can't think of any compelling reason to partake of the Irving-salad Trying to Save Piggy Sneed, a mishmash of memoir, short stories and fawning lit crit that just doesn't do anything for me except wish I was reading one of his novels. His excruciatingly-detailed look back on his wrestling career (both as participant and as coach) entitled, perversely, "The Imaginary Girlfriend", is dull as dishwater ...more
Oct 21, 2010 Emilia rated it liked it
Buddy of mine gave me this at a party last spring. I'd never read Irving and wanted to give him a shot. This book is a collection of short works, split into three sections. The first is "memoir." This section concludes with an interminable tale of every wrestling match that Irving had either competed in, presided over as an official or even heard a story about. Scores and moves and competitors names that draw out into the most specifically uninteresting writing imaginable.

After being bogged dow
Brandy Bacala
Feb 18, 2013 Brandy Bacala rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I'm sorry to say I did not love this book. I thought reading the memoir of such a creative and talented fiction author would be at least somewhat entertaining. Instead I got a blow by blow recap of every wrestling match John Irving has ever been in... or refereed...or that his sons were in...or that some guy he met in college but can't remember his name was in. This continues to a point of absurdity, and I'm not even sure hardcore wrestling fans could stay interested. If you pick up this book I ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Brent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For Irving completists like me. Some memoir, some short stories, some works praising Dickens and Gunter Grass. The stories range from good (Almost In Iowa) to terrific (The Pension Grillparzer). The memoirs are mostly interesting, with a very, very detailed account of his love of wrestling and his wrestling career (The Imaginary Girlfriend), his politics (My Dinner at the White House), and the wonderful title memoir detailing why he became a writer. The last third of the book praising Charles Di ...more
Robert C.
There are two versions of this book - this version contains 8 pieces of work:

"Trying to Save Piggy Sneed"

"Interior Space"
"Almost in Iowa"
"Weary Kingdom"
"Brennbar's Rant"
"Other People's Dreams"
"The Pension Grillparzer"

"The King of the Novel"

The other volume, of the same name, is longer and contains 12 pieces of work, including The Imaginary Girlfriend, which is available under separate cover:

"Trying to Save Piggy Sneed"
"The Imaginary Girlfriend"
"My Dinner at
Feb 28, 2016 Easha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Average rating: 2.75

My first Irving experience was a mixed bag. A couple of stories were great, but most of them were disappointing. A positive that came out of this, though, is that it really made me want to read more of Irving's books; I loved his style of writing, but some of the subjects here were simply boring. Despite this, I enjoyed the book overall. It felt like a literary version of a sketch book: a book of short, beautifully written works of art.

Below are some short comments a
Aug 22, 2010 TBV rated it really liked it
John Irving's Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (TSPS) is an admixture of autobiography/memoir, literary short stories with commentary, and treatises on Charles Dickens (Irving's favorite author). Put all that together and you have a very interesting book. TSPS begins as a memoir of Irving's time at Exeter, wrestling, how he began to write, fellow writer friends, and various influences upon his life (e.g. Kurt Vonnegut). A word of warning, though. If you have no interest whatsoever in wrestling, you mi ...more
Samia Ahmed
Now I know where Garp comes from! This is an essential book to know Irving and his life. True, there is a bit too much on the wrestling bits.

The short stories are nice. I knew Grillsparzer from before and in this book I really loved - 'Interior Space' and 'Other People's Dreams'. Interior Space is a germ of a short story- many lives, many stories and he beautifully crafted everything in. I want to read it again, I think.

Did not read into the last bits of the book- where its about Irving's homa
Simon Bendle
John Irving tells us at the start of this collection that his grandmother, who helped raise him, never read his work with much pleasure. I know how she feels. This book left me cold. The first part was interesting enough, where he talks about the job of being an author, how writing is a “strenuous marriage between careful observation and just as carefully imagining the truths you haven’t had the opportunity to see”. The last chapter, a homage to Charles Dickens, was also a good read, particularl ...more
Aug 10, 2012 Janet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book a three star only because I truly enjoy reading John Irving. This book however was somewhat of a letdown. Trying to Save Piggy Sneed is a compilation of Short Stories by John Irving along with his reviews of his writings, his personal memoirs, critical reviews of his favorite authors, as well as his meeting with the daughter of Thomas Mann. It just seemed like a mish-mash of writings and thoughts that would have been better done individually. I love Charles Dickens too, but didn ...more
Christopher Roberts
Sep 25, 2012 Christopher Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century
This is Irving's only collection of "short work." The memoir The Imaginary Girlfriend covers the same ground as most of his novels but is still must read for Irving fans. The title memoir is also fantastic, though I have my doubts about how factual it is. His memoir about having dinner with President Reagan is hilarious.

The short stories, made up of works that Irving completed while getting his MFA, are interesting but not his best work. It isn't hard to figure out why Irving gave up on short p
Mar 22, 2016 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Go for the alternative edition, which also contains memoirs from Irving's childhood.
I would call this collection so-so. The memoir The Invisible Girlfriend was a a tedious read. It is 80% blow by blow accounts of wrestling matches. Not being a wrestling fan, I had trouble keeping with it. The first memoir piece in the collection, which shares the book's title, Trying to Save Piggy Sneed, was a lot more enjoyable, as were the short stories and essays that followed them.

Also interesting are the author's notes that follow each piece, in which Irving reflects on the work, the conte
Mar 01, 2015 Kimberly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This was my first experience reading John Irving a I quite enjoyed it! I don't often read short story collections, but I think this one will encourage me to read more of them. I quite enjoyed reading "Interior Space," "Brennbar's Rant," and "The Pension Grillparzer" for their quirky, engaging characters and a number of laugh-out-loud moments. These stories were lots of fun. On the flip side was "Trying to Save Piggy Sneed," the book's eponymous memoir. It was insightful if not exactly enjoyable. ...more
This book makes me happy. I now understand why Irving doesn't write much nonfiction. Don't take that the wrong way. His nonfiction here is very revealing. I like that he thinks nonfiction or memoir writing isn't very imaginative. I like his tributes to Dickens and Grass. In fact, I just bought a Gunter Grass book. Let's see how that goes.

The Piggy Snead essay is nice, a revelation of the combination of cruelty and imagination that children, specifically Irving, have. I didn't realize the wrestl
Dave Fellows
3/5 stars. A disjointed but mainly enjoyable collection of what seems to be "everything else" that John Irving has written. I read the longer version of this book, which includes the short autobiography, "The Imaginary Girlfriend". A common complaint of this piece is that it is too heavily focused on Irving's wrestling interests, and indeed it does feature heavily; however, I would say that it isn't quite that bad, and if you're not interested in John Irving's life, then maybe his autobiography ...more
Dec 24, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this short eclectic book of different short stories and articles written by Irving. It is organized in three sections - Memoirs, Fiction, Homage.

Memoir is about stories that are based on his life, Fiction are flat out fun short stories, and homage for me was very fun - especially as he talked about his love of Charles Dickens (Chapter 10 - Great Expectations and Chapter 11 - Christmas Carol). He also had an article about Gunter Grass that makes me want to read more.

Each chapte
S.L. Dixon
This short collection reads like a sampler and would probably be a fine gateway for those growing weary upon looking at the dense paragraphs and high page counts of much of John Irving's work. Trying to Save Piggy Sneed was my favorite story here. It is heartfelt and realistic and honest.
The King of the Novel (an essay on Charles Dickens) was also wildly entertaining and reasonable.
There is a bear, there are circus-folk, love gone afoul and situational comedy that carries like a surf lapping to
Jul 19, 2013 Cass rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, 2013
I don't know what this was about. It wasn't awful. The writing was skillful, it just wasn't interesting.
Short story is not my favorite genre...but I enjoyed listening to this book...the title piece explains Irving's love of story telling and reinventing the truth...his memoir, presidential politics, his friendship with Gunter Grass, and his admiration of Charles Dickens are all so entertaining...

The short stories took me to very different places and I loved every place...

And the author's notes gave us a glimpe into his process, his writing life. What a treat!

His self-deprecating humor had me giggl
Nov 05, 2015 Jeremy rated it really liked it
This week's review seems to be the revenge of the short story form. The book I read two books ago (look it up if so inclined) was a story collection that I felt didn't coalesce. Now comes John Irving's Trying to Save Piggy Sneed, a dozen short stories and essays that thematically comes together, leading to a whole and satisfying read. Characters may change, topics vary, but what binds it all together is the survey of Irving's own career -- the early recollection of cultivating a story in his min ...more
Jul 06, 2013 Esther rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-a-copy
This book is made of three parts:
- Memoirs: with three autobiographical works
- Fiction: with six short stories
- Homage: with three works about Irving’s two favorite authors

The *** rating is earned only by some of the short stories in the fiction section.

I am a big Irving fan and I was utterly curious to read about his life from his point of view and hopefully connect some dots (which I did), but especially “The Imaginary Girlfriend” really bored me to death. It is an account without end on wre
Geert Daelemans
Sep 02, 2013 Geert Daelemans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Irving can do a lot better than this

'Trying to Save Piggy Sneed' is a short story collection that brings together seven stories written between 1973 and 1993. In the title story, for example, Irving explains how he became a writer. 'The Pension Grillparzer', previously only to be found inside 'The World According to Garp', has been given an independent airing. The collection ends with a homage to Charles Dickens.

The saddest thing about this collection is that it is in no way a showcase of the en
Geert Daelemans
Aug 30, 2013 Geert Daelemans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Irving can do a lot better than this

'Trying to Save Piggy Sneed' is a short story collection that brings together seven stories written between 1973 and 1993. In the title story, for example, Irving explains how he became a writer. 'The Pension Grillparzer', previously only to be found inside 'The World According to Garp', has been given an independent airing. The collection ends with a homage to Charles Dickens.

The saddest thing about this collection is that it is in no way a showcase of the en
My favorite sections of this book, since I do not agree with Irving on a political level, were the Short Stories. I loved Weary Kingdom.

His paying homage to Charles Dickens in the essays at the end was, however, lost on me. I am not a big Dickens fan, although I haven't put much effort into reading him either.

Definitely an interesting collection of works, I'm really glad I read it. I feel that maybe I would have been less patient with it were I not a big fan of John Irving. For instance: the inf
Aug 02, 2015 Angela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anytime I see a book by John Irving I pick it up and read it and usually I love it. I didn't love this collection but I did enjoy it. I struggled thru his descriptions of high school and college mostly because I am not a wrestling fan, but I did enjoy learning more about his life. And also I loved that after each short story he wrote a small synopsis about how he felt about the story and what was going at the time he wrote it and that he commented on his novels as well.
Carol Wakefield
I've enjoyed several of Irving's novels. This less so. Rather a hodgepodge. First autobiography heavy on wrestling. Total recall of high school wrestling matches and a desire to share said recall with the reader? Only for wrestling fans. Then some old short stories previously published elsewhere, then some literary criticism. Maybe he needs money. None of it needed to be published or republished.
Hugh Mcaloon
Interesting collection of fiction and criticism. I much preferred the former to the latter, and very much enjoyed the author explanations at the end of each. While much of literary criticism bores me (so much of it explains the story you're about to read before you read the story... put it at the back if you're going to do that!), Irving's discussion of Charles Dickens is so gushing that it has inspired me to give that author another shot...
Jul 06, 2008 Aj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a collection of memoirs and short stories by one of my favorite authors! the best part of this book is the author's notes after each story that explains when it was written, how it was written, what JI was thinking about, etc. As a literary nerd and an Irving-phile, this is like a dream come true! the latter third of the book are commentaries on other authors' works by irving (typically comprised of introductions irving has written or introductions he has given for the authors' for books reading ...more
Susan Visser
Five short stories... not bad. One or two I'll remember in a year from now. The part I liked most was the essay on Charles Dickens at the end. I avoid English Lit classes because I hated analyzing a book I liked to death, but I like the way Irving critiqued Dickens. He's clearly a huge fan and most of the essay is about Great Expectations. This is Irving's favourite Dickens... and of the ones I've read, it is my favourite as well. Perhaps if I had read essays like this in highschool, I wouldn't ...more
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JOHN IRVING was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942. His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968, when he was twenty-six. He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, and coached wrestling until he was forty-seven.
Mr. Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for his novel The World According to Garp. He received an O. Henry Award
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