Trying to Save Piggy Sneed contains a dozen short works by John Irving, beginning with three memoirs, including an account of Mr. Irving’s dinner with President Ronald Reagan at the White House. The longest of the memoirs, The Imaginary Girlfriend,” is the core of this collection.
The middle section of the book is fiction. Since the publication of his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968, John Irving has written 12 more novels but only half a dozen stories that he considers finished”: they are all published here, including Interiors,” which won the O. Henry Award. In the third and final section are three essays of appreciation: one on Gnter Grass, two on Charles Dickens.
To each of the 12 pieces, Mr. Irving has contributed his Author’s Notes. These notes provide some perspective on the circumstances surrounding the writing of each piece - for example, an election-year diary of the Bush-Clinton campaigns accompanies Mr. Irving’s memoir of his dinner with President Reagan; and the notes to one of his short stories explain that the story was presented and sold to Playboy as the work of a woman.
Trying to Save Piggy Sneed is both as moving and as mischievous as readers would expect from the author of The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer of Owen Meany, A Widow for One Year, and In One Person. And Mr. Irving’s concise autobiography, The Imaginary Girlfriend,” is both a work of the utmost literary accomplishment and a paradigm for living.
©1982, 1996, 1993, 1980, 1974, 1976, 1982, 1968, 1973, 1979, 1993, 1982 Garp Enterprises Ltd. (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
I wanted to like this book and I tried to finish but just never really got passed how much I disliked the first story, even though the next few were a little better. I finally gave up when I realized listening was just becoming tedious.
"Much to enjoy - but where are his novels?"
My indifferent 3 star rating is because these shorts cannot compete with the brilliance of his wonderful 5 star novels. John Irving is one of the USA's greatest living novelists, has rarely written short stories, and this is the only collection published. So I listened partly through curiosity, partly out of frustration that audible UK doesn't make many of his novels available. Publishing wrangles maybe?
First published in 1996, the collection is quite a mixed bag and has aged well. The same sly wit that illuminates his novels is well in evidence both in the stories and memoirs. Each piece is followed by some interesting "author's notes" which give extra context. Narration is good. Overall, I think existing Irving fans will find much to enjoy, but anyone else should probably start with one of his novels.
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