Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pg. 69: "The Good Good Pig"

Sy Montgomery is a naturalist, author, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator.
"To research books, films and articles," according to her website, "Sy Montgomery has been chased by an angry silverback gorilla in Zaire and bitten by a vampire bat in Costa Rica. She has worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba and handled a wild tarantula in French Guiana. She has been deftly undressed by an orangutan in Borneo, hunted by a tiger in India, and swum with piranhas, electric eels and dolphins in the Amazon.

"But her newest book for adult readers is a love story—a true one—about home, about family, and particularly, about a pig."
I asked Sy to put The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood to the "page 69 test." She replied that page 69 is indeed a good introduction to her book. Here's an excerpt from the page, followed by her elaboration of how it fits the book:
Elsewhere...pigs are widely admired. A Hindu creation legend tells us that the great god Vishnu took the form of a boar in order to lift up the Earth on his strong back from the waters of the primeval flood; he is often depicted with a boar's head on a human body. In Papua New Guinea, many tribes measure their wealth by the number of pigs they have. Women sometimes suckle orphaned pigs along with their own infants. In some of these areas, the pigs are not eaten. Instead they are admired for their beauty and fecundity, and especially for their handsome, curving tusks.

[Our pig] Christopher was yet to grow tusks. But already he was, I thought, very beautiful: his black and white coat glossy, his eyes bright and expressive, his black hooves shiny and trim. But his beauty was more than skin (or even lard) deep. Though we didn't realize it at the time, Christopher was already bringing to us the blessings for which pigs have been credited for centuries: strength, luck, friends, even family.

In fact, The Good Good Pig is about all the blessings a runt piglet named Christopher Hogwood brought into my life. It is a memoir about the things that really matter: community and family. And it is a testament to the fact that family is not about blood, but about love. The book is an affirmation that the definition of family can be far richer than simply the opposite-sex, same-ethnicity person you legally marry and your biological children. In my case, my family included many members of other species: from dogs to birds (who are more closely related to dinosaurs than to humans) as well as children I didn't bear (or adopt), and a husband who was different enough from me that my parents disowned me for marrying him.

One I day I hope that all people realize that a great soul can come to us in any form. In my case, he came home in a shoebox, a runt deemed too sickly to live--and grew into a 750 pound hog who lived to age 14, pampered and adored by our entire New Hampshire village. Neighborhood kids came to wash and groom him at "Pig Spa." Local restaurants brought him gourmet slops. Local voters wrote his name in at town elections. Our one town cop kept apples in the cruiser in case he met up with Chris (who was an escape artist) on the road. But the real beneficiary of all this affection was those of us who loved him--as those of us who love animals well know. He was, as a neighbor told me, "a great big Buddha master" who "taught us how to love what life gives you" and this book is the story of what he showed us.
Many thanks to Sy for the input.

Click here to read an excerpt from The Good Good Pig.

The book has collected many positive reviews and endorsements, including:
"I LOVE this book! It takes us into the world of one pig with such delicacy, such gentleness and yet such depth, that you will never be able to look a pig in the eye again without recognizing the unique person living within. You become somebody who sees why Sy Montgomery loved a pig beyond all measure. When you finish her book, so will you."
—Jeffrey Masson, Ph.D., author of When Elephants Weep and The Pig who Sang to the Moon

"I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up Sy Montgomery's story of Christopher the pig. The love affair between dogs and cats and people is richly documented. Pigs are another matter. What I found was a charming, touching, funny and ultimately very powerful tale of an extraordinary, even complicated pig and his impact on some very loving, perceptive and extraordinary people. This story is heartwarming but packs a wallop. "THE GOOD GOOD PIG" is a very welcome and original addition to the best stories about the remarkable bond between some people and some animals, and Sy Montgomery has done her pig well."
—Jon Katz, author of Katz on Dogs and The Dogs of Bedlam Farm
The Christian Science Monitor named
The Good Good Pig to its "Best Nonfiction 2006" list.

For a Q & A with Sy--including the questions: "What led you to become, in the words of the Boston Globe, 'part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson'? Who were some of your influences, both literary and scientific?"--click here.

Sy Montgomery's many other books include Journey of the Pink Dolphins: An Amazon Quest, The Wild Out Your Window, Walking With the Great Apes: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Birute Galdikas, Encantado: Pink Dolphin of the Amazon, Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea, Search for the Golden Moon Bear, The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans, The Snake Scientist, and The Tarantula Scientist.

Adam Langer wrote of
Journey of the Pink Dolphins: "I don’t know who else conveys a love for nature with as much passion and humor as Montgomery does in this voyage to the Amazon in search of the magical, titular creatures."

Previous "page 69 tests":
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful
Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History
Ed Lynskey, The Dirt-Brown Derby
Cindy Dyson, And She Was
Simon Blackburn, Truth
Brian Freeman, Stripped
Alyson M. Cole, The Cult of True Victimhood
Jeff Biggers, In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Broadwater, George Mason, Forgotten Founder
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue