When the currency of literary praise has been so debased as to be all but worthless, returning to a form of barter is long overdue.
What are we saying?
Before some wily genius invented money – which too often earns its reputation as the root of all evil — people traded in actual things other people wanted, not in symbolic representations of the value of those things. So many of us are fed up of being misled by book jacket hyperbole and dishonest reviews dressing up mediocre or shoddy work as ‘brilliant,’ ‘masterly,’ ‘luminous,’ and ‘stunning’ that it is time to melt down the defunct adjectival coinage, shelve it, and return to the actual substance of literature. We mean that we would love to see a trend for favouring clips of the writer’s own arrangements of words, in drawing attention to works of literature — over the encomiums of word-floggers and other tricksters.
Still making our slow – savouring — way through Storm Damage, John A. A. Logan’s collection of short stories mentioned on this blog in January — we came across one accorded the rare distinction, in our reading over the years, of being read more than twice by us.
Like our photograph in honour of early spring – a gift of the eyes of generous MIL22 – this story, ‘The Orange Pig,’ is the work of an artist interested in satisfying nothing but exacting, deeply interior aesthetic standards. And if that sounds too serious – well, this is a tale that had us shaking with amusement as often as it left us rapt from the recognition of wisdom dextrously confected as a soufflé.
Without further ado we leave you, dear reader, to consider these extracts chosen to avoid giving away too much – and to let you marvel at a publishing revolution that makes it possible to acquire the thoughts that link them together on your e-reader almost instantaneously. All for no more than what it would take to put a frothing coffee into your hands.
‘I only want to walk to the top of the hill,’ said the orange pig.
‘No-one is stopping you,’ said the wolf. ‘But surely you can see that we can’t let incidents like these go unexamined or unreported. I assume you are from the farm.’
‘Where I am from is my own business.’
‘I understand,’ said the wolf, ‘but …’
The wolf waved a paw in the direction of the dead bird.
‘In circumstances like this,’ said the wolf, ‘we all must account for ourselves, our actions, our motives. It may be in the next world we will all be free to move where we wish like phantoms in the mist, but you are from a farm. You know the meaning of a fence, or a gate, a sty or a barn, a wall or a door. Do not pretend to be naïve. I find you here, and then I find this. What am I to think?’
‘The only time is now,’ said the wolf.
‘It is very late.’
‘Not so very,’ said the wolf.
They walked past the dogs like ghosted whispers and soon they were beyond the limits of the farm, their legs working hard against the steep hill’s power.
‘Under the moon there is no market day,’ said a deep, bass voice from further to the orange pig’s left than his thick neck could twist to let him see. ‘No lorry to take us away, no slaughterhouse, no scheduled death.’
‘For scheduled death is dishonour,’ said the black wolf.
‘Amen,’ said all the wolves in a clear chorus.
Somehow, though, the orange pig’s personality had not attracted fame, only a non-profitable cache of oddity. Good enough to bring a few of the farmer’s friends around the orange pig’s sty to stare at him awhile, but nothing solid to build a business on. The newspapers had come once, and taken photographs, but interest had not been ignited in the public.
‘To hell with farms and farmers,’ said a bitter voice the pig had not heard before.
‘Amen,’ said the wolves.
‘It is here in the moonlight things are shown truly,’ said a quiet voice from among the sea of silver heads. ‘With the sun in the morning comes all the illusions and divisions. Here in the silver shining, we are our truest selves, is it not so my brothers?’
‘Amen,’ said a strong chorus.
‘No farm could ever be thought of or established in the moonlight. It is an idea of the day, born of heat and dazzle.’
‘I told this pig I would take him another night to wash in the salt of the sea,’ said the long wolf.
‘The waters of the sea are great, its waves caress and cool us,’ said the quiet voice.
‘That pig’s legs are too short to run with you to the sea,’ said a voice.
‘We will all go,’ said the black wolf. ‘We will go to the sea another night and we will go at his pace. There are thoughts that come when we stand in the sea and feel the waves lap at our legs that can come in no other way. It is time we did go to the sea again.’
[ … continues …]