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Trying to Save Piggy Sneed

3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  5,574 Ratings  ·  201 Reviews
A collection of one dozen short works includes the title piece, a loving portrait of the author's grandmother, and additional stories, including "The Pension Grillparzer" and "Dinner at the White House"

Here is a treat for John Irving addicts and a perfect introduction to his work for the uninitiated. To open this spirited collection, Irving explains how he became a writer.
Paperback, First Ballantine Books Edition, 464 pages
Published February 11th 1997 by Ballantine Books (first published 1993)
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Sep 24, 2015 Snotchocheez rated it it was ok
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
Feb 05, 2017 Sharyl rated it really liked it
Trying to Save Piggy Sneed is a most interesting assortment of memoir, short stories, and essays. I enjoyed Irving's stories about wrestling and being a referee for that sport, his intriguing short stories, and the explanations of them that followed. Also, he has quite a few interesting anecdotes, especially the one about meeting Thomas Mann's daughter on a plane, quite by coincidence. (Elizabeth Mann Borgese was an oceanographer who had trained her dog, Claudio, to play piano. I am not making t ...more
Apr 18, 2010 Emilia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 27, 2013 Brandy Bacala rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Paula Dembeck
Irving has put together a selection of fiction and non-fiction in this collection of short stories and essays from his literary career. He has divided the volume into three parts: Memoirs, Fiction and Homage. Each piece is followed by a section in which Irving comments on the piece, placing it in an historical context, providing insightful and often funny comments on how the story began as well other interesting personal thoughts.

Irving begins the "Memoir" section, with the piece that graces th
Jan 30, 2015 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
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
Jan 12, 2017 Michal rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
OK, povídkové knihy nejsou zrovna můj šálek kávy. Přesto jsem dal knize šanci, protože jsem potřeboval nějakou malou knihu, která by se mi vešla do bagáže na hory. A taky je to Irving...

Ze šesti povídek se mi líbily dvě, hned první - Vnitřní prostor (dal bych 4*) a pak Penzion Grillparzer (5*). Ta má tak úžasnou atmosféru, že jsem si povídku s chutí přečetl vlastně už podruhé - poprvé jsem ji četl předloni ve Světe podle Garpa, kde se povídka objevila poprvé. Povídku pak Irving rozvinul ve své d
Aug 09, 2012 Janet rated it liked it
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 13, 2012 Christopher Roberts rated it really liked it
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
Samia Ahmed
Feb 05, 2015 Samia Ahmed rated it liked it
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
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
Jul 18, 2013 Cass rated it it was ok
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.
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.
Mar 16, 2017 Jeff rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A memoir with too much wrestling for most of the population, six short stories (including a couple Irving admits to being embarrassed by, as well as The Pension Grillparzer from The World According to Garp) and a few interesting if meandering essays about two of his favorite writers, Dickens and Günter Grass. For Irving completists only.
Feb 23, 2017 Erocchio rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the first short stories and I especially liked reading the author's comments after each story. Each of these had characters that interested me. I thought the intro for Dickens was informative. The last short story was about an author I did not know so wasn't as involved.
Stephen Barker
An interesting and varied collection of short stories with an element of memoir. I disagree with some reviewers who didn't rate these highly. Almost all are wonderful examples of concise story-telling.
I enjoyed reading Garp, Hotel New Hampshire etc, probably 30-odd years ago now ( so won't try & rate them ) I do remember sometimes feeling they were a bit long or a little too focussed on wrestling! Maybe I should have read more of his short stuff back then.
Nov 18, 2015 Kelly rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Trying to Save Piggy Sneed is a book for John Irving fans; it's not the John Irving gateway book. It's mash of various things written by Irving over a 30 year period, broken up into three general sections -memoir (containing three separate parts), fiction, and homage.

Trying to Save Piggy Sneed, the title story and first story in the book, is fantastic.

Next comes a long memoir about wrestling. It is because I love John Irving that I was able to read so many pages about wrestling matches. I guess
Feb 04, 2010 TBV rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2013 Esther rated it liked it
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
Oct 09, 2016 Rob rated it really liked it
I love John Irving. He may be my favorite living author of fiction. This book mixes memoirs with short stories and essays on some of his favorite authors (mainly Dickens). I am always a big fan of reading about how authors go about the process of writing. As this is the 14th book of his I've read, I was not surprised to learn that Irving attended a prestigious northeast boarding school as the son of faculty, wrestled extensively, spent time in Germany and Austria, hobnobs with his literary peers ...more
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
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
Feb 27, 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
Feb 01, 2016 tina added it
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
Apr 05, 2012 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 21, 2010 Rhonnie rated it liked it
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
Jun 15, 2008 Aj rated it really liked it
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
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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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