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Trying to Save Piggy Sneed Paperback – February 11, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Irving proves himself, once again, a garrulous and engaging raconteur in this collection of fiction and nonfiction divided into three sections: Memoirs, Fiction and Homage. In the last, while admiring the work of Gunter Grass, he notes that "Grass is never so insecure as to be polite." Given Irving's fascination with the malfunctioning or assaulted human body, one can't help feeling that he's defending his own work?both acne (in the story, "Brennbar's Rant") and genital warts (the O. Henry Prize-winning "Interior Space") figure in these pages. Sometimes, however, Irving's grotesquerie lacks the compassion with which his favorite writer, Dickens, moderated his caricatures. In the title essay (in which Irving relates his discovery of the powers of fiction-making), Piggy Sneed, the retarded garbage collector and pig farmer whose disappearance stimulates Irving's imagination, is harshly ridiculed: Sneed "smelled worse than any man I ever smelled?with the possible exception of a dead man I caught the scent of, once, in Istanbul." There are other, more engaging pieces: an amusing account of a dinner at the Reagan White House; an early, sentimental story, "Weary Kingdom," about a lonely woman; and, best of all, "The Imaginary Girlfriend," a rambling autobiographical sketch with a heavy emphasis on the mentors and rivals who shaped Irving's defining obsessions?wrestling and writing. Each of the 12 sections is followed by "Author's Notes"; "The Imaginary Girlfriend" is supplemented with personal photographs (not seen by PW). 150,000 first printing; BOMC selection; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

When the going gets tough, the tough...go through their desk drawers. John Irving has not been on top of his game since The Cider House Rules (LJ 6/1/85) and in an effort to showcase the old talent, Irving offers a collection of past writings. Not strictly a work of fiction, Sneed includes memoirs, short stories, and "Homages"-tributes to Charles Dickens and Gunter Grass. Written in 1967 when Irving was a student at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, "Weary Kingdom," about a middle-aged dorm mother at a Boston college, reveals a maturing writer, growing comfortable portraying the quirky aspects of his subjects that characterize his work. "The Imaginary Girlfriend," the most recent of the essays (to be illustrated with Irving's photos-not seen), outlines the parallel lines of his wrestling career and reading history. In spite of its unevenness, Sneed is recommended for fiction and literature collections based on Irving's reputation.
Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st Ballantine Books ed edition (February 11, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345404742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345404749
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. He has been nominated for a National Book Award three times-winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. He also received an O. Henry Award, in 1981, for the short story "Interior Space." In 1992, Mr. Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules-a film with seven Academy Award nominations. In 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

For more information about the author, please visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Flowers on November 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you love Irving, you will want to read this eclectic collection of essays, bits of biography and short stories. If you don't know and love Irving, you will wonder what it's all about. Personally, I am a huge fan; I've read all of his novels and so this was a welcome insight into the life of one of America's treasures. The first chapter on how he became a story teller is vintage John. On another note, he definitely loves wrestling, and you are faced to read tedious round by round accounts of important matches in his life, but that's okay, because now I know where he got a lot of the foundations for Garp.
A few things stood out in this book that elevated John Irving to the status of one classy guy: his love and devotion to his sons, and he never has one bad thing to say about his ex-wife, the mother of his children. In fact he thanks her for her diligence in photographing the boys growing up and some of her shots are found in the center of the book.
Of the multitude of areas in this book, I enjoyed most a short story entitled "Interior Space" inwhich an Austrian man (who else?) laments over the sale of his house and the tree thereon. "You will not the tree down-chop." Irving truly is the master at replicating the juxtaposition of words in the dialogue of native German speakers speaking English.
As fans know, the wait between Irving's novels is unbearably long, and Piggy Snead makes for an entertaining interlude.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By PT Dilloway VINE VOICE on July 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
Take "Trying to Save Piggy Sneed" for what it is, a mismatched collection of "memoirs", short stories, and "homages" to Charles Dickens and Gunter Grass. Unless you like to read about wrestling, the memoirs provide very little true insight into Irving. Do not waste your time buying "The Imaginary Girlfriend" as that comes from this book and is mostly dedicated to Irving's lackluster wrestling career. I think I learned more about Irving in the notes after the short stories than I did by reading the memoirs.
The short stories range in quality. "Weary Kingdom" was Irving's first published work and is a long, dull story (not even the author really likes it). "Interior Space" is my favorite, but even it is not as good as some of Irving's novels.
The homages to Dickens and Grass are somewhat interesting. I decided to give "Great Expectations" a try since Irving said that's the book that really made him want to write. I doubt it will have the same effect on me.
The biggest flaw in my opinion was that the publisher put the notes AFTER the various pieces of writing. I always read those first just to get the background of the story before I read it. For example, it helped me tolerate "Weary Kingdom" when I saw that it was really Irving's first piece of published writing.
At any rate, I recommend skipping this garage sale and sticking with Irving's novels. If you read this in the hope of understanding the author better, you will be disappointed as I was.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mark Kari on August 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
I've read all of John Irving's novels, but somehow let this book get by. Having just finished it (soon after reading A Widow For One Year), I have mixed feelings. I would love to read Irving's memoirs, but I'm more interested in his family life than all that wrestling business. One can't help imagine that there is a lot of John Irving in T.S. Garp and Johnny Wheelwright and John Berry, but Irving does not reveal this. The short stories and his comments on them are well worth it, though. When he calls one story amateurish to the point of embarrassment, I can't help but think "I only wish I could write one story as well as Irving's worst." For fans of the Irving mystique it's a must read, but for others I'd say go straight to The Pension Grillparzer.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By kayakgrrl on March 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an interesting memoir and it is entertaining as well. Although he always insists that his fiction is purely fiction and not autobiographical- his life sure does shine through in most of his novels!
He does tend to go on a bit too much about wrestling- great for wrestling fans but a tad tedious to the rest of us. But it was interesting to hear about the rest of his life and the influences of other people and authors in particular. I was surprised to learn of his connection with one of my other favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut.
My opinion of John Irving is enhanced by his memoirs- he has a subtle sense of humor and is amazingly enough, still quite humble and and able to make fun of himself.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael DENNISUK VINE VOICE on January 27, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love John Irving. When I first read Garp 25 years ago it knocked me out. Mr. Irving was truly an original voice. In "Piggy Sneed" he has given us a memoir, some short stories and essays. The memoir, "The Imaginary Girlfriend", is the best piece in the book. I enjoyed the fusion of his wrestling career and his writing career. I enjoyed the short stories and his attempt to share with us his some of the craft of writing. The homage to Dickens was enlightening and inspiring. I found the final piece of the collection (the one on Gunter Grass) the most difficult to read (perhaps because I haven't read any of his work but the piece has not inspired me). All in all if you love John Irving, you will find this book an excellent companion.
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