"I realize that writer's business is setting fire to Piggy Sneed-and trying to save him-again and again; forever."
John Irving occupies a somewhat curious spot among contemporary writers. He's popular, he's had several well-received films made of his books, and he gets good reviews, yet he doesn't seem to be taken as seriously as, say, Don DeLillo or Cormac McCarthy. Obviously he's a very different kind of writer and he's detractors might accuse him of being old fashioned. He certainly has little to no use for post-modern tricks or literary pyrotechnics. His closest contemporary in that sense may be Richard Russo. I guess this a roundabout way of saying that he's a great novelist and, in many ways, superior to his more critically favored peers. This slim collection has a short autobiographical piece (the title story), six short stories, one of which was in "Garp," and an essay in praise of Dickens, a writer with whom he has much in common. Like Dickens, he's not so much interested in polished prose or literary trends but in engaging and moving the reader, even at the risk of being sentimental or corny. A fine book for the the Irving fan.
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