Ellis Sharp: Pig Tale
I assumed the title was going to be a pun (pig tale/pigtail). I already have another pig tale pun book on this site. However the pun does not seem to be relevant to this book. It is indeed solely about pigs and, in particular one pig, a five year old boar (boar is the technical term for a male pig) who narrates this book. We learn only later that he is called Ed. Pigs, of course only have monosyllabic names, he tells us though the Empress Blandings might disagree. Before you run a mile, it is very much not a children’s book (only one mention of Boris Johnson’s friend peppa Pig) and while, in principle, I might not be too enthusiastic about a book narrated by a pig, this one works as it is essentially a satire, mocking humans and their foibles from a pig’s perspective.
Pigs are born free but everywhere we are behind electric fences is the basic theme. Our boar hero had apparently escaped from Owen’s pig farm but has been recaptured. Fearing his imminent extinction, he is telling his story to his fellow pigs. Our hero has many skills we do not normally associated with pigs, which include not only speaking pig, but speaking fluent English and the languages of various other animals. As regards English he can both understand it and speak it.
His escape occurred one night. The farm is surrounded by an electric fence and there are two men who watch over the pigs but they spent most of their nights drinking and watching TV (from which our hero learned his English). On that night a woman crashed her car into the electric fence and the two guards only just saved her. However, our hero seized his chance though the other pigs refused to follow him
He finds a nice wood with plenty of food and is happy there, till a rock festival turns up in the neighbouring field. He is not a fan of loud rock music but eventually is admitted and becomes something of a mascot. Of course he finds plenty of food. It all goes wrong when he nearly kills Ed Sheeran. He goes viral but, of course, is unaware of that.
We now follow his wanderings. He observes a (human) couple having sex and is horrified that they use the missionary position. and is surprised by the orgasmic noises they make He sees rivers being heavily polluted by effluent, a major topic in the UK at the moment (2023). He is caught and taken to a slaughterhouse but rescued by animal liberationists and goes on to have a relationship (yes, sexual) with one of his rescuers.
All the while Sharp has been giving us his usual wry and witty comments. Our hero hates Animal Farm, as it is animalist as the pigs are portrayed as sly brutal selfish animals. He wittily adds, in relation to Orwell, but with a bit of British self-deprecation, never trust a writer who is afraid to write under his own name. He is hiding something. He even gets to mock Trump and all the while he comments on human foibles.
Yes, it is a fable and not serious so a pig who enjoys watching Netflix films, listening to Weezer’s Pig and, as in Sharp’s previous work, Lucinda Williams and Brian Eno and can read and talk English and is learning German. However it seems odd that he has heard of Annie Ernaux, Turgenev, James Baldwin and a whole slew of quarter talented and a half forgotten novelists, all of whom I have heard of and read and several of whom are on my website but has not heard of Shakespeare. He concludes you only have to look at the bestselling books to see that they crave abominable prose, simplistic stories and banal characterisation I can only agree.
Much of the novel, as I mentioned, is Ed damning the human race. Humans are a murderous and deceitful species he tells his fellow pigs and their primary purpose is to exploit you. Their main aim is almost certainly to kill you.
He gets very much into politics and his mocking of the Tory-lite Labour Party is excellent. However, his basic conclusion on humans vs pigs makes a lof of sense: we pigs are intelligent, clean and caring. Whether or not the same can be said of bipeds is very much open to debate.
Some of the humour is, of course very obvious and Sharp does not hide his political views, damning the Conservatives, Labour and Trump as well as carnivores, capitalists and best-selling novelists. There are numerous little jokes and satirical moments in the book, as well as a very clever story, all of which make it a fun read.
First published in 2023 by Zoilus Press