When I hear there’s a pig story in the offing, I think immediately of two of my favorite writers, P. G. Wodehouse, whose Lord Emsworth kept pigs, and E. B. White, whose Wilbur, of “Charlotte’s Web” fame, I can’t help but think of whenever I sit down to what another Wodehouse character, Bertie, of “Jeeves and the Bacon Fat Caper” fame, called the B and E, sometimes E and B, freely improvising on the jazz theme, but for our purposes here, sausage and eggs.
And yet, these singing pigs are not here sizzling in the pan, but if a pig really can sing, what has that to say about language? Perhaps many living and non-living things can talk, and we can hear them, animals and plants, acoustic and electric things, if only we try to listen. What is talk? What is language?
So it was with a bit of trepidation, resulting in only a tiny pig’s tail of technological frustration, that I delved into a bit of e-Pig fat and tasted a short story last night via Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader: tu-whit, “Pigsong,” by Frank Delaney.
There might be three kinds of people in our human world: masters, slaves, and those who escape entrapment of either of those two. But when we include animals, plants, rocks, and other things from our compost pile to the table of words, more interesting plots develop, and foil characters want out of their foils.
I have come to love compost. I love the sweet and awful smell of rotting food, decaying plants, moist loam and dirty, muddy soil, and I love to turn the compost pile over to discover mounds of lovely redish-purple worms at warm work eating their way through their Garden of Eden. Get a little closer and you can hear, hear the hum of the compost heap. I must have a bit of the pig in me. I think I can hear the pigs singing.
Frank Delaney, prolific Irish author, surely must lust for words as a pig honkers down to a late summer corn husk, must have some sort of language compost heap at his disposal.
What do pigs have in common with Ireland’s Saint Patrick? Well, for the answer to that, you’ll have to read the story: “Pigsong,” available at Amazon, (or, “Pigsong,” available at Barnes and Noble). Pigs are singing, waiting for listeners. It’s a story in which animals become human beings and tells of the origins of power, justice, and faith, and of independence, of cruelty and revolution to overthrow that cruelty. All this in a short story? Yes, well, it’s a fable, and so covers a lot of ground in a short space.
The source of stories that in turn explains the source of stories is a very old story, and continues to grow out of the compost heap made of words and fears and triumphs of songs and hate and love of cruel masters and creative workers in language that has been turned over and over by many a storyteller over the years. Frank Delaney is one of the best.
Frank Delaney: Storytellers (about the series)