The Book: Trying to Save Piggy Sneed, by John Irving
The Story: This is a collection of short works by John Irving. The first few are autobiographical and tell about his life growing up. There are stories from his life growing up on a farm, but mostly the “memoir” section is about his life as a wrestler. This includes but is not limited to seemingly every wrestling match he ever wrestled in, watched his kids wrestle in or officiated. The middle section contains a handful of short stories. In “Interior Space,” neighbors go to war over a tree that sits on their property line. The short story that Garp wrote in The World According to Garp was also included in this collection. The last section was a couple of pieces John Irving wrote about Dickens that were included as forwards in different books.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that this was kind of just a hodge podge- little bit of this, little bit of that.
What I Thought: If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I have a think for short stories. There’s just something about a good short story question that just does it for me. I love being able to sit down and take in a whole story in one sitting. When I found this at a thrift store, I was thrilled. I’ve been in the mood for John Irving and I love finding out more about author’s lives.
I was not disappointed.
My favorite part of this collection was the memoir section. I read some reviews on Goodreads that talked about how maybe all the wrestling was too much, but I sort of loved it. My brother wrestled when I was younger so I’ve been to my fair share of wrestling matches and I really got into John Irving’s play-by-plays. I don’t really know how he remembers absolutely everything, but that in and of itself is pretty impressive. Some of the stories he told about wrestling- especially reffing- had me cracking up. So funny. His experience at the White House? Also quite funny…
Having read quite a bit of John Irving, I loved knowing the origin of a lot of the themes that he focuses in on in just about every book.
The fiction section was hit and miss for me. I loved the Garp story (which, for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of) and Interior Space, but looking back over the table of contents, I have to admit that there are a few that I don’t even remember. Not at all…. and that’s never a good sign. I’ll say this though: The ones that I liked, I really liked and they really made up for the ones that seemed to fall flat.
Probably what I loved most about this collection was that after each story there were a few words from John Irving about what inspired this piece, how he saw it then, how he sees it now and so on. I frigging loved this. Even with the stories that I didn’t enjoy, I loved getting to the end and finding out what the author thought of them. In several he said that he felt that they were not great and almost embarrassing to publish. For me, this made this collection just that much better.
Conclusion: If you love short stories and/or John Irving, this is for you. As in any short story collection, you have to take the bad with the good, but it’s worth it.