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Trying to Save Piggy Sneed

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3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  4,835 ratings  ·  163 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.
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Paperback, First Ballantine Books Edition, 464 pages
Published February 11th 1997 by Ballantine Books (first published 1993)
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A Prayer for Owen Meany by John IrvingThe World According to Garp by John IrvingThe Cider House Rules by John IrvingA Widow for One Year by John IrvingThe Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
Best of John Irving
16th out of 16 books — 275 voters
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Massive Reading List
111th out of 131 books — 64 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Emilia
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
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Brandy Bacala
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
Brent
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 Day
There are two versions of this book - this version contains 8 pieces of work:

Memoirs:
"Trying to Save Piggy Sneed"

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

Homage
"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:

Memoirs
"Trying to Save Piggy Sneed"
"The Imaginary Girlfriend"
"My Dinner at
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Easha
Average rating: 2.75

My first Irving experience and...it 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
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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
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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
Janet
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
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
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Carrie
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
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Kimberly
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
Becky
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
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Cass
I don't know what this was about. It wasn't awful. The writing was skillful, it just wasn't interesting.
Claudia
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
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Esther
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
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TBV
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
Geert Daelemans
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
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Geert Daelemans
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
...more
Rhonnie
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
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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.
Aj
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
Pamela
Really couldn't get into this book. I tried several times, then finally gave up. I ended up giving it away because every time I looked at an unpleasantness came over me. Not due to the book contents or topic. I think I felt like it should have been something I liked, but couldn't do it so I just felt bad. Probably wasn't the best first Irving book for me to try.
Laurie
1*
2014 John irving Challenge # of
The short stories were not to my liking. to be fair I don't like short stories.
the chapters on his passion for Charles Dickens validate me giving ths book 1*
I will use these two chapters to determine my next Classice which will be a Dickens as I enjoyed the reading of two of the books in Cider House Rules to the boy orphans
Jason
Probably a 2.5. I love Irving, but this collection of short oddities just makes me long for his novels. I feel somewhat unsatisfied. His strength is really rooting himself into the lives of his characters. There's no surprise that he idolizes Dickens, as "King of the Novel" tells us. Still, I'd say not one of the stories lives up to the expectations of Garp, Owen Meany, Hotel New Hampshire, or even Twisted River. They aren't bad, on the contrary, but they simply make me want to dive into a more ...more
Lori
As always, I love John Irving. This included some of his short stories, which I enjoyed, as well as the author's notes he included on each. It's interesting to learn about how he goes about his craft! I'll be honest though, I could have done without the very extended autobiographical piece on his involvement in wrestling!
Claire Price
If you're an Irving fan, this collection is worth reading. Short works are clearly not his forte or his comfort zone, but there are some gems within this collection. The "notes" following each short story are a valuable insight into Irving as a person and a writer, very honest, self-reflection and funny.
Penn Stewart
This is an interesting blend of nonfiction--personal essays, author's notes, and critical writing about Charles Dickens and Gunter Grass--and short stories. In a sense, it is a memoir through the lens of Irving's works and influences. It's a wonderful window into the mind of one of my favorite writers.
Jonathan
I was looking for a long novel, similar to Owen Meany or Garp, and thanks to my utter distaste for research, all I got was a book of self-promoting memoirs and sub-par short stories. Lines such as "My good friend Kurt Vonnegut" stick out in my head and threaten to change my opinion on Irving's other masterpieces. He criticizes other writers and praises himself for seemingly no reason other than to tell his own story. The only redeeming quality this book has to offer is the "Author's Note" sectio ...more
Remi
May 28, 2008 Remi rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: irving fans
Shelves: reviews-by-remi
Very good collection of John Irving's short stories, and a great way to learn more about my favorite author as well as his influences. The 1st 3rd of the book is short vignettes of his life. This is probably the best part of the book. The 2nd 3rd is short stories he wrote (sometimes as practice, sometimes as challenges to prove he can write about some point of view). I enjoyed these but it is definitely not as good as his longer work. The last 3rd of his book are homages, or intros to his favori ...more
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John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. The World According to Garp, which won the National Book Award in 1980, was John Irving’s fourth novel and his first international bestseller; it also became a George Roy Hill film. Tony Richardson wrote and directed the adaptation for the screen of The Hotel New Hampshire (1984). Irving’s novels are now translated into thirty ...more
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