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on March 15, 2016
It was great to read essays and short stories written by Irving. I have read many of his novels but none of his short stories. The commentaries after each was interesting to read. If I taught a writing course and would require all my students to read this book.
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on November 24, 2015
John Irving is one of my favorite modern day writers, but this book was a notable exception. I am not at all a wrestling fan, and half of the book described his wrestling exploits. BORING! I wasn't impressed at all with his short stories, either, and found it difficult to believe that the man who wrote "Until I Find You", which was absolutely wonderful, as was "A Prayer For Owen Meany" was the same person who wrote those. Several of his books were simply hard to put down. This one was tedious. The one bright spot was his critique of Charles Dickens. It seems we share an opinion there. I even enjoyed "In One Person", despite the subject matter. I kept looking for the story called "The Imaginary Girlfriend", but perhaps I imagined that - it never appeared.
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on October 29, 2009
I gave this book five stars in part for the way it was organized. Virtually all short story collections have 10-12 stories, and that's it, which may be one reason that short story collections generally don't sell as well as novels. There is nothing to break up the stream. After finishing one, you're confronted with the next, with new characters, a new plot, new themes. Short stories require more concentrated effort than a similar number of pages in a novel, so I apprecitate the way this book helped give me breathing space.

Trying to Save Piggy Sneed began with John Irving's memoirs, which covered about 160 pages. I found it quite interesting, except possibly for some of the extended descriptions of wrestling matches. Nonetheless, it personalized my reading experience in a way that simply reading one short story after the other seldom does. Knowing something about John Irving's growing-up years put the stories in context, and trying to relate the themes of the stories to his life enriched the whole experience.

Also, following each story were notes on the story, again giving further insight that you rarely get from the standard short story format.

The third section of the book, after the memoirs and short stories, contained essays on Charles Dickens and other subjects. I enjoyed getting inside John Irving's head to see what sort of literature he likes and why, then comparing it with my own opinions. I felt like I was having a conversation with him.

I bought the book originally because of the short story called Interior Space. I was curious because I knew it had won awards, plus I'd never read an Irving short story. I enjoyed that story but after finishing the book, found myself liking the book for much more than just that award-winning story.

I hope other authors planning on publishing a short story collection take note of the format of Trying to Save Piggy Sneed as a way of "mixing things up" to create more interest.
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on March 28, 2003
`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 enormous talent of John Irving. Nevertheless, this is exactly what the cover promises. A few of the stories like `Interior Space', `Weary Kingdom' and `The Pension Grillparzer' are quite entertaining, but still miss the true spirit of his novels. Most of these stories finish without even reaching some kind of clue. The book ends with some kind of non-fiction essay on Charles Dickens: a boring addition which no one was waiting for. The conclusion is clear: Irving should keep to writing full-featured novels, so he can develop his characters in his own personal way and make the most bizarre story lines that fascinate the reader from cover to cover.
The stories in this collection are: Almost in Iowa, Brennbar's Rant, Interior Space, Other People's Dreams, The King of the Novel, The Pension Grillparzer, Trying to Save Piggy Sneed and Weary Kingdom.
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on September 12, 2001
This compilation of short stories gives an insightful look into the life of John Irving. Any reader who is familiar with Irving's work will find that Trying To Save Piggy Sneed relates to all of his earlier work. The writing style is consistently unique in each of the pieces found in Piggy Sneed. Irving's technique and insight are powerful tools which place the reader in the midst of each new conflict. Would be writers will find this autobiographical sketch interesting informative. Irving states just what it is that makes a good writer. He also honors those authors whom he thinks have made an impact on the literary community.
My favorite piece in this collection was "Interior Space" which dealt with one girl's vengeance on a boy who has caused her a major embarrassment. The creativity used in describing in detail the great lengths that the young Margaret has gone to in order to clear her name are extremely entertaining. The bold steps taken by this young girl, as well as the community's support in Maggie's campaign, are awe inspiring.
Irving includes a piece in which he writes from the viewpoint of a woman. This ability to effectively create the feel of a female perspective adds to the story in a tremendous way. Truly, Irving is a talented writer.
The concentration on family and wrestling that shine through in all of Irving's books, is explained in Piggy Sneed. Irving has only the highest regard for his own family, and wrestling has shaped the man he is today. All in all this was a very entertaining as well as informative read. It held my attention every minute.
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on July 19, 2014
This was an interesting piece of a writer writing about his writing. Very autobiographical, but if one is expecting a usual John Irving novel it was a bit disappointing. If one is looking for a explanation of the background of the novels he has written, especially the prominent role of wrestling in many of his stories, it is very interesting.
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on October 28, 2002
John Irving and Michael Chabon are probably my two favorite authors. They both write beautifully. Although their books are usually pretty hefty (in weight and subject matter), they don't waste a single word.
This book differs from most of Irving's work in that it's a collection of memoirs, short fiction and essays. There's lots of wrestling in this book, as one would expect from an Irving memoir. I've read that some people found those sections tedious; I didn't. As far as I'm concerned, the book is worth purchasing even if you read nothing but the section about having dinner at the White House. I had to read it out loud to my husband (which was difficult, since I was laughing the entire time).
I also enjoyed the short fiction and essays. Matter of fact, though I didn't enjoy Dickens as a youngster, I'm tempted to read him again after Irving's essays.
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on July 17, 2012
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, particularly with this being the 200th anniversary of the great man's birth. But the short stories in between, for me, ranged from so-so to tedious to downright irritating. Piggy Sneed is "a perfect introduction" to John Irving's work, according to the blurb on the back of my copy. I'm not so sure. It was disappointing.
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on November 29, 2012
I really like how he also defends Dickens and found his short stories great, makes me want to go back and read my first Irving book, "Garp" though I have a few I was not able to get to, so I will try Son of the Circus first.
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on July 15, 2012
Irving's a great writer and I've read just about everything by him I could get my hands on. Turns out THIS "book" is a short story. Surprise! Again, I'm not too fond of being refered to as "Bozo" in lieu of creating a profile. That suggests exactly how you view me and your other customers.
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