Saturday, December 24, 2005


From the Vault: Trying to Save Piggy Sneed by John Irving

This collection by the author of The World According to Garp seems to have sneaked into stores quite soon after the release of his most recent novel, A Son of the Circus.

Then again, since most of this new book consists of things written and published elsewhere, there wasn't much of a need for the tremendous wait John Irving subjects his readers to between new works.

Trying to Save Piggy Sneed is divided into three parts: Memoirs, Fiction and Homage. Combined with the author's notes after each piece, this really serves as the closest Irving has ever come to writing his autobiography.

The three parts of the Memoirs section offer insight into the influences that have affected Irving through the course of his life. The longest autobiographical piece, "The Imaginary Girlfriend," tells the most about his growth as a writer, wrestler and man — though this long work does contain a little bit more wrestling recollections than any fan needs.

The short stories of the Fiction section vary in degrees of interest and worth and include "The Pension Grillparzer," best known as the fictional T.S. Garp's first work. Irving includes it here since Garp divides the story up and he wishes it to be read in one sitting. Of the short stories, my personal favorite is "Interior Space," which Irving admits in his notes is his second-favorite short story he's ever finished.

The final section contains two appreciations of Charles Dickens and one on Gunter Grass and these three give as much insight to Irving as it hands to the authors he admires. For fans of Irving, Trying to Save Piggy Sneed is essential reading. For others, only about half of the short stories included here will hold much interest.

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