Pyg: The Memoirs of Toby, the Learned Pig by Russell Potter, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Pyg: The Memoirs of Toby, the Learned Pig

Pyg: The Memoirs of Toby, the Learned Pig

by Russell Potter
     
 

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A heartwarming debut introduces readers to the adventures of its overachieving porcine narrator

Blending the sophisticated satire of Jonathan Swift with the charming exuberance of a Pixar film, Pyg tells the story of Toby, a truly exceptional pig who lived in late eighteenth-century England. After winning the blue ribbon at the Salford Livestock

Overview

A heartwarming debut introduces readers to the adventures of its overachieving porcine narrator

Blending the sophisticated satire of Jonathan Swift with the charming exuberance of a Pixar film, Pyg tells the story of Toby, a truly exceptional pig who lived in late eighteenth-century England. After winning the blue ribbon at the Salford Livestock Fair and escaping the butcher's knife, Toby tours the country, wowing circus audiences with his abilities to count, spell, and even read the minds of ladies (but only with their permission, of course). He goes on to study at Oxford and Edinburgh—encountering such luminaries as Samuel Johnson, Robert Burns, and William Blake—before finally writing his own life story. Quirky, beguiling, and endlessly entertaining, this memoir of a "remarkable sapient pig" is a sharp and witty delight.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this charming debut novel, Potter imagines—fully and movingly—the story of the “learned pig,” based on an actual 18th-century novelty act that toured the U.K. under the aegis of Samuel Bisset. The real-life pig was simply a trained beast who responded in rote to his master’s commands, but Potter’s conceit is that Toby reads and thinks: the book purports to be his memoir, beginning with his birth in 1781 near Manchester. The lucky pig is saved from the butcher’s block by a boy named Samuel Nicholson (all “characters and places of note” are given thumbnail sketches in an afterword). Toby becomes a sensation, touring England, Scotland, and Ireland, and meeting some of the celebrated figures of the era, including Samuel Johnson, Robert Burns, poet Anna Seward, William Blake, actress Sarah Siddons, and, tellingly, William Wilberforce, an English member of Parliament who was an early abolitionist. It’s a very clever roman à clef; Toby the Learned Pig, with his earnest, understandable quest to be more than a source of amusement, animates this fable about enslavement, liberal education, and, perhaps, animal rights. The use of old-fashioned typography, capitalization, and woodcuts complement the 18th-century prose style, creating an immensely readable, clever, and fun novel. Agent: Malaga Baldi. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
 
“The protagonist and, as it were, first-porcine narrator of this quirky little book is a pig called Toby. . . . In Russell Potter’s magical rendering . . . he is not only a prescient pig but also a reflective one, with a Swiftian eye on mankind’s mores.”—The Washington Post

 
“Everything about Russell Potter’s debut novel Pyg indicated that it had potential to be a charming read but nothing prepared me for the totally immersion I felt. As each page seemed to fly by I found myself not only believing Potter was an immensely talented and capable author but that Toby, the learned pig who was the purported true ‘author’ of the book with Potter simply editing his porcine scribblings, was the damnedest pig I’d ever had the pleasure of getting to know. . . . Toby is a vibrant and amazingly alive and TRUE character that only comes once in a while in the very rarest of books and I simply do not have the words adequate to thank Mr. Potter for this book and for that magical pig’s entrance into my own imagination. He lives there now at the side of Peter Pan, Nicholas Nickleby, Harry Potter, and any other number of adventurous souls of fiction.”—Michael Jones, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

 
“Embracing the idiosyncracies of 18th-century italicization and capitalization practices, set in a nice Caslon Antique type, and with a 1798 woodcut illustration of a learned pig at the start of each chapter (a nice touch), this is not only a very entertaining and enjoyable read, but also a lovely little book. . . . Added bonuses are the cameo appearances by such literary luminaries as Samuel Johnson, William Blake, Anna Seward, and Robert Burns, and Potter's (Toby's) sharp sense of 18th-century style and sensibility. Deeply funny, brilliantly satirical and also just a darn good story.”—PhiloBiblos

 
“In this charming debut novel, Potter imagines—fully and movingly—the story of the ‘learned pig’ . . . . It’s a very clever roman à clef; Toby, with his earnest, understandable quest to be more than a source of amusement, animates this fable about enslavement, liberal education, and, perhaps, animal rights. The use of old-fashioned typography, capitalization, and woodcuts complement the 18th-century prose style, creating an immensely readable, clever, and fun novel.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 
“This is an Oxbridge pig; you might dub him an oinktellectual, a rational, shrewd observer of flawed humanity. Toby shines light on our human qualities, lending due distance to how we might view them: our capacity for loyalty, friendship, all the deadly sins, curiosity, fear of death, vulnerability and a yearning for recognition, whatever our worth. It is the most ordinary of tales, made extraordinary not by the ‘freakishness’ of its ‘author’ but by the humanity. Which is what captivates and touches, and makes the book worth reading.”—The Scotsman

 
“In prose that manages to be both dense and arch, Toby relates his escape from the butcher’s knife with the help of his friend Sam . . . all good clean fun.”—The Times (London)

 
“Written in a delightfully erudite, faux early 19th century prose . . . a multi-layered, rumbustious romp which the author pulls off cum laude.”—The Observer (London)

 
“A delicious book. A reminder of the risks, the drama and the quite extraordinary comedy of being born with a snout, four hooves, and a corkscrew tail.”

—Marie Darrieussecq, author of Pig Tales

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143121183
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/31/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“A delicious book. A reminder of the risks, the drama and the quite extraordinary comedy of being born with a snout, four hooves, and a corkscrew tail.”
—Marie Darrieussecq, author of Pig Tales

Meet the Author

Russell Potter is a professor of English at Rhode Island College. Pyg is his first novel. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

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