Eamonn Lynskey's Poetry and Reading Blog

January 20, 2010

‘The Whole Hog’ by Lyall Watson, Profile Books 2004

Filed under: Books — tvivf @ 2:25

All you ever wanted to know about pigs… and then some! Subtitled ‘Exploring the Extraordinary Potential of Pigs’ this book does what it says on the tin. It is written by an expert in the field, who has an easy engaging writing style and an attractive sense of humour, three ingredients which are always a good combination in any book.

Extraordinary paragraphs abound. Look at this from page 231: “The lyric poet Robert Herrick, he of ‘Gather Ye Rosebuds While ye May’, kept a clerical pig which followed him everywhere and may have contributed to his ejection from a Devonshire vicarage by the Puritans. Lord Gardenstone, an eminent Scots lawyer, kept the best-known legal pig, which shared his bed”.

However, I must not leave my reader with the idea that this is another ‘jokey’, patronising Walt-Disney-style book about animals. The writer has spent a lifetime studying his subject and has written an absolutely serious book that provides the reader with insights on pig-culture, and also on ‘our’ human culture. The author says: “Defining culture as uniquely human is just lazy thinking… If California sea-otters can develop a tradition of using stone anvils to open clam shells, and Japanese macaques are already beginning to carry pebbles about, looking for some appropriate use for these proto-tools, I predict that pigs are going to be found to be cultured animals in ways best suited to animals without grasping hands” (p.243).

Thoroughly recommended.

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