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the Complete Review
the complete review - autobiography/fiction

Trying to Save Piggy Sneed

John Irving

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To purchase Trying to Save Piggy Sneed

Title: Trying to Save Piggy Sneed
Author: John Irving
Genre: Autobiography/Fiction
Written: 1967-96
Length: 432 pages
Availability: Trying to Save Piggy Sneed - US
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Our Assessment:

B- : biographically interesting, but a mixed bag.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe B 14/2/1996 Robert Taylor
The Independent . 24/4/1993 Giles Smith
The NY Times B- 30/1/1996 Michiko Kakutani
The NY Times Book Rev. B 4/2/1996 Sven Birkerts
TLS . 9/4/1993 Irving Weinman
The Washington Post . 21/1/1996 Jane Howard

  Review Consensus:

  The stories are very good, the memoirs stink -- and no one needs all that stuff about wrestling.

  From the Reviews:
  • "After a while, one may feel like the Wedding Guest in Coleridge, fixed by the glittering eye of an ancient mariner who has escaped from the University of Iowa writers' program." - Robert Taylor, Boston Globe

  • "The short stories are principally a chance to see Irving working without his most essential tool -- space. (...) The results are mixed." - Giles Smith, The Independent

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       It sounds like a good collection. On offer are three autobiographical pieces, including The Imaginary Girlfriend, at some 120 pages the longest piece in the book, six short stories, and three critical pieces, two homages to Dickens and one to Günter Grass. A bonus is that each piece comes with "Author's Notes", telling something about the writing of the piece, etc. So it sounds like an eminently worthy collection.
       Regrettably, however, it falls fairly flat. The odd admixture of fact and fiction does nothing to enhance the reading enjoyment. It is fairly interesting for the biographical information revealed, and the long autobiographical piece, though too centered on Irving's bizarre obsession with wrestling, is certainly worthwhile. The rest -- and particularly the fiction -- is a decidedly mixed bag. Prize-winning though some of these stories may be -- or familiar, from his novels -- they wobble on shaky legs in this large volume. Even the fundamentally very solid story The Pension Grillparzer was better served in The World according to Garp than sandwiched in here.
       The Author's Notes add some interesting detail and color, but are not always on point. Reader's want to know other things than what Irving chooses to relate.
       The critical appreciations are very fine, but again seem rather misplaced at the end of this odd collection. Irving does most everything quite well -- he is a fine critic of Dickens, he has always been able to write a decent story, hell, he even writes well about wrestling (though that is a talent appreciated only by a tiny minority of readers) -- and this book can probably best be appreciated if it is read slowly, selectively, and piecemeal. We are, however, so used to Irving's big books that we plowed right through this one, and we found it fairly hard to enjoy it that way.
       Recommended to those who want to know more about Irving. Do not, however, expect a typical Irving tome, despite the heft of the book !

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Trying to Save Piggy Sneed: Reviews: John Irving: Other books by John Irving under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary American fiction under review

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About the Author:

       John Winslow Irving, American author, born 1942. Born in Exeter, New Hampshire he graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy. Author of numerous very successful novels, he first achieved widespread recognition with The World according to Garp.

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