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Rising Above The Influence: A True Story about Alcohol, Drugs, and Recovery jOf The Boston Review and it gave him confidence to continue with his writing Looking back what he likes about the story is how he was able to create a minor character in the third person a skill he identifies as fundamental to successful story telling The story centers on Mina Barrett a matron in a girls dormitory who has lived a life of endless but comfortable routine until she forms a relationship with an adolescent student known for misbehaving Irving humorously notes that on reading this piece now on the cusp of his fifties Mina comes across as someone very very old yet she is only fifty five in his story But he wrote this when he was a very young man when fifty five seemed very old This strikes him as humorous now that he is older and fifty five does not seem as old as he once imagined Almost in Iowa describes a long carourney in which a nameless driver imagines a relationship with his car to fend off the boring long miles of the trip It ends with someone vandalizing the car as it sits parked outside his motel room overnight This story did not strike a chord with me as in any way remarkable In the section titled Homage there are three selections In the first The King of the Novel Irving explains why he is such a fan of Charles Dickens and how that novel influenced his writing He points out that Dickens writing is emotional rather than analytical which is why some readers enjoy his work while others do not Irving believes Dickens tries to move the reader emotionally rather than intellectually and by that means influence the reader socially He finds Dickens so skillful at describing things that he believes the reader will never again look at something in the future that Dickens has described and see it in the same way as he has in the past In an introduction to A Christmas Carol Irving provides an in depth descriptive analysis of the novel an essay which was used as an introduction to the Bantam Classic Edition 1968 of the book Irving loves this classic a tale of greed and redemption that teaches us a simple fact that a man can change It is clear that Irving s great admiration for Dickens has not faded over time and Irving credits Dickens as the man who made him want to be a writer The concluding piece on Gunter Grass King of the Toy Merchants is a homage to a writer Irving admires and is based on his friendship with the German author This collection of memoirs essays and short stories does not present anything new as everything here has been printed in some form before However the end notes are interesting and provide some thought provoking remarks and context for the pieces I sensed with this volume an interim period between projects when Irving wanted to publish to maintain interest among his readers and supplement his income A writer s life is not easy and there is often a long period between projects so it is difficult to criticize a man for trying to earn his livelihood However I would rather read Irving s novels which I enjoy as there was not much here that really grabbed my attention For Irving completists like me Some memoir some short stories some works praising Dickens and Gunter Grass The stories range from good Almost In Iowa to terrific The Pension Grillparzer The memoirs are mostly interesting with a very very detailed account of his love of "Wrestling And His Wrestling Career "and his wrestling career Imaginary Girlfriend his politics My Dinner at the White House and the wonderful title memoir detailing why he became a writer The last third of the book praising Charles Dickens and Gunter Grass is there if you want it I found myself skimming through most of it although I may finally actually read A Christmas Carol Definitely time to re read A Widow for One Year Trying to Save Piggy Sneed is a most interesting assortment of memoir short stories and essays I enjoyed Irving s stories about wrestling and being a referee for that sport his intriguing short stories and the explanations of them that followed Also He Has Uite A Few Interesting he has uite a few interesting especially the one about meeting Thomas Mann s daughter on a plane uite by coincidence Elizabeth Mann Borgese was an oceanographer who had trained her dog Claudio to play piano I am not making this up John Irving s stories and commentary about other writers and novels always inspires me to read That Great Expectations was the work that made Irving want to write may propel me to read it again sometime and certainly to read Dickens Of the short stories featured in this collection I was especially captivated by The Pension Grillparzer and the commentary that followed Shockingly I have still not read The World According to Garp but when I do I will have a special appreciation for itMy copy of this book is a paperback that is identified as fiction on its spine As usual that s not the entire picture Anyone who enjoys John Irving will find much of interest in this memoir I m a huge fan of at least half of John Irving s fiction titles so it pains me greatly to say I can t think of any compelling reason to partake of the Irving salad Trying to Save Piggy Sneed a mishmash of memoir short stories and fawning lit crit that ust doesn t do anything for me except wish I was reading One Of His Novels His Excruciatingly Detailed Look Back On of his novels His excruciatingly detailed look back on wrestling career both as participant and as coach entitled perversely The Imaginary Girlfriend is dull as dishwater yeah his love for the sport shines through but reading something I care nothing about is a complete time waster despite Irving s best efforts Ditto the insane inclusion in this collection of The Pension Grillparzer a short story that was already immortalized in his The World According to Garp No reason to excerpt a chunk of Garp here if you re sentimental for Garp read the novel don t read it here it doesn t fit The other short stories are meh at best the other two memoirs serve to name drop than provide any insight into Irving s life and his DickensGunter Grass bookended slobber fests are there to remind how lame this is compared with Great Expectations and The Tin Drum Only the most die hard Irving completists need bother with this one really. Works both fiction and nonfiction written by one of the country's finest and funniest writers includes a living portrait of Irving's grandmother a new never before published essay six scintillating short stories including the O Henry Award winning Interior Space and two essays on Irving's favorite 19th century novelist Charles Dickens Trying to Save Piggy Sneed is John Irving at the top of his fo.

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Trying to Save Piggy SneedI was almost finished with this book of short stories and essays and then decided not to finish I liked elements of this collection of tales and disliked others So ultimately ambivalent Worth reading not worth finishing Haha I m sorry to say I did not love this book I thought reading the memoir of such a creative and talented fiction author would be at least somewhat entertaining Instead I got a blow by blow recap of every wrestling match John Irving has ever been in or refereedor that his sons were inor that some guy he met in college but can t remember his name was in This continues to a point of absurdity and I m not even sure hardcore wrestling fans could stay interested If you pick up this book I highly recommend you skip the memoir section entirely The short stories segment is considerably better and you can easily see that John Irving is a strictly FICTION author The stories were intriguing with dynamic characters and beautiful symbolism but ust as you begin to get sucked in you re slapped in the face with an abrupt ending Almost all of the short stories had me wondering where they would have gone if he had expanded it into a full length novel It s obvious that Irving is a master of the novel and his stories need that time to develop and come full circle His short stories are entertaining but I wouldn t recommend them to someone reading Irving for the first time Finally this book included some critical analysis of Irving s favorite authors and I m sorry to say I gave up trying to finish Piggy Sneed It s fine that he like Charles Dickens but I was honestly too bored and disappointed to read another word of it Shame on Mr Irving for tricking his loyal fans into thinking this book would in any way compare to his novels Next time I ll know better There are two versions of this book this version contains 8 pieces of workMemoirs Trying to Save Piggy Sneed Fiction Interior Space Almost in Iowa Weary Kingdom Brennbar s Rant Other People s Dreams The Pension Grillparzer Homage The King of the NovelThe other volume of the same name is longer and contains 12 pieces of work including The Imaginary Girlfriend which is available under separate coverMemoirs Trying to Save Piggy Sneed The Imaginary Girlfriend My Dinner at the Whitehouse Fiction Interior Space Brennbar s Rant The Pension Grillparzer Other People s Dreams Weary Kingdom Almost in Iowa Homage The King of the Novel An Introduction to A Christmas Carol Gunter Grass King of the Toy MerchantsI only note this because I was confused myself and thought it would be nice to try to spare other people from the same confusionThat said I won t be rushing out to buy the other comprehensive collection I still have another memoir to look forward to My Movie Business A Memoir and I feel that I m exhibiting uite enough fanboyishness for now after all I am in the throes of reading this author s entire body of work so far in consecutive order and well c mon that s enough for now rightSo what do I think of John Irving as a short story writer Hmm Well put it this way I much prefer his long books It seems to me that some of the tales here are kinda like character sketches than full blown self contained works I can ust imagine these characters appearing in any one of his novels but yet their impact being as passing as a their impact being as passing as a thrown stoneIt s not that they re not entertaining they are it s not even that they re not well written they most certainly are it s ust that they are erm short They are like the flash of a firefly #ON A GLORIOUSLY SUNNY DAY WHEN I VE BECOME #a gloriously sunny day when I ve become to the stately progress of a beautiful full moon through a darkened skyIn other words I ve been spoilt by reading John Irving s novelsThereHaving said that I enjoyed reading The Pension Grillparzer outside of the context
Of The World According 
The World According Garp much than I thought I would It s funny how perception and context affect enjoyment When I first read it I only knew it as a whimsical tale written by TS Garp in the context of a much bigger and serious novel by John Irving this was before I really understood his early work as having comedic elements Reading it again gave it a weight and impact that surprised me It was if the text had been edited and improved upon within this collection to tighten it up and make it less throwaway Maybe it was I don t know but that s how it feltOf the other stories Almost in Iowa reminded me unpleasantly of the author s dislike of a story from the point of view of a fork because it kinda anthropomorphisises a Volvo I found Weary Kingdom to be rather sad Brennbar s Rant kinda funny Other People s Dreams intriguing and I can t remember what Interior Space was about oh wait it was about a walnut tree HmmIt strikes me now that I may have missed the depth and beauty of these stories by rushing through them and I know that if I read them through and through properly and attentitively I would be able to glean the shining messages and morals of these talesThing is though I don t want to I want to be entertained I want these books to shine like rays of sunshine on a cloudy day I want my inner world to be lit instantly and dazzlingly I want reward without effort I want to eat a succulent and delicious cake without having made any effort to collect the ingredients lovingly assemble them diligently bake it and present it on the plate like a king on a throne there to savour and enjoy every single morselIn this consumer led madly driven world I do John Irving s work a massive injustice by passing it off in such a brutal and cold hearted manner and I m sorry I apologise from the bottom of my greedy self satisfying heartI m truly sorryNext Buddy of mine gave me this at a party last spring I d never read Irving and wanted to give him a shot This book is a collection of short works split into three sections The first is memoir This section concludes with an interminable tale of every wrestling match that Irving had either competed in presided over as an official or even heard a story about Scores and moves and competitors names that draw out into the most specifically uninteresting writing imaginable After bein. A collection of one dozen short works includes the title piece a loving portrait of the author's grandmother and additional stories including The Pension Grillparzer and Dinner at the White HouseHere is a treat for John Irving addicts and a perfect introduction to his work for the uninitiated To open this spirited collection Irving explains how he became a writer There follow six scintillating st. G bogged down in that story for months I kicked the shit out of my complete ist nature and skipped on to the next story It was the middle section Fiction that made the book fun again After each story is an author s reflection almost every one of which begins I wasn t going to include insert title here in this collection but This gave me another perfect opportunity to teach myself that not every printed word I come across is as deserving of my attention as all of the others The sho A forgettable Irving book compared to the likes of OWEN MEANY Now I know where Garp comes from This is an essential book to know Irving and his life True there is a bit too much on the wrestling bits The short stories are nice I knew Grillsparzer from before and in this book I really loved Interior Space and Other People s Dreams Interior Space is a germ of a short story many lives many stories and he beautifully crafted everything in I want to read it again I think Did not read into the last bits of the book where its about Irving s homage to other authors Irving has put together a selection of fiction and non fiction in this collection of short stories and essays from his literary career He has divided the volume into three parts Memoirs Fiction and Homage Each piece is followed by a section in which Irving comments on the piece placing it in an historical context providing insightful and often funny comments on how the story began as well other interesting personal thoughts Irving begins the Memoir section with the piece that graces the title and it is my favorite in the entire collection It is the story of Piggy Sneed a retarded pig farmer who collected garbage in Irving s home town Irving and his adolescent friends often taunted Piggy who lived in close proximity to his animals fed his pigs the garbage he collected and always smelled badly The boys constantly harassed him called him names and made fun of him In contrast to their behavior Irving s grandmother always treated Piggy with the respect she felt was due anyone trying their best to make their way in the world in spite of their circumstances She always greeted him by name spoke to him respectfully and paid her bills on time When Irving and his friends grew older and oined the Volunteer Fire Department they were called one evening to Piggy s burning barn When they arrived the fire was so advanced they were told to stay back and let the flames burn themselves out While they waited for the fire to die down Irving stumbled on his creative voice regaling his friends with an imaginary story about how Piggy had escaped the blaze and was already on his way to Florida The discovery of his ability to merge actual facts with imaginary truth and create an entertaining ongoing story line helped direct Irving to choosing writing as his life career In the after piece Irving identifies his grandmother Helen Bates Winslow as a woman he greatly respected who supported that choice but disapproved of both the subject and the language of his first novel and refused to read any of his later work The second memoir titled The Imaginary Girlfriend I had already read as a stand alone volume one which I did not really enjoy Although it describes Irving s early life it is immersed in his obsession with wrestling providing the reader with endless details of matches won wrestling holds that were or were not successful injuries he suffered and coaches he admired I found it uite uninteresting but it clarifies for those interested in Irving s life story how and why he developed his second passion in life his first being his writing My Dinner at the Whitehouse is a story I did not find noteworthy consisting largely of a rant against Republicans a comical criticism of Dan uayle and a mean poke at George Bush who became ill at a state dinner in Japan and Bush who became ill at a state dinner in Japan and a fact widely reported in the mediaThe next section titled Fiction contains six short stories In Interior Space a urologist an architect a walnut tree a naughty youth named Harlan Booth with the clap and Margaret a girl out for revenge are all included in a strange story that I did enjoy Irving also said it was one of his favorites pointing it out as a great example of a story that started out in one place but ended up in another Irving says this is what happens when a writer allows his muse to lead his writing Brennbar s Rant is an angry little story told from the point of view of a woman about her husband published in the December 1974 issue of Playboy magazine and attributed to a fictional writer named Edith Winter It was written by Irving in response to a challenge that he could not write a story from a woman s point of view a challenge he accepted proving his point with this piece It describes a man misbehaving at a dinner party a story about political correctness which also includes Irving s opinion on popularity However it is a story I found altogether easily forgettable The Pension Grillparzer is the short story that was originally published as a part of Irving s celebrated novel The World According to Garp Here Irving lets his imagination run rampant as he tells the tale of a travelling family who #a host of interesting people in a rundown rooming house Like much of Irving s work it includes bear #host of interesting people in a rundown rooming house Like much of Irving s work it includes a bear wonderful Duna who rides a unicycle In the end note Irving explains why the story was broken up and told in two parts in the novel Other People s Dreams was a story which initially drove Irving to distraction He couldn t get it right and was constantly changing the title and the opening scene He kept shoving the manuscript back into a drawer until several years later when he restructured it and made the ending its beginning which finally made the story work Irving also shares how looking back on his writing from previous years he sees so much now that he never realized before Weary Kingdom is a look back at a story he wrote when he was only twenty five a story he submitted for publication although he harbored misgivings about whether it was good enough to appear on the printed page Despite his concerns it was accepted for the SpringSummer 1968 edition. Ories written over the last twenty years ending with a homage to Charles Dickens This irresistible collection cannot fail to delight and charmThe first collection of short pieces two of them previously unpublished by the author of The World According to Garp includes memoirs six short stories and essays on Charles Dickens and Gua5nter Grass Reprint TourThis gem a delightful collection of shorter.