Weird Pig, by Robert Long Foreman. Cape Girardeau, Missouri: Southeast Missouri State University Press, October 2020. 266 pages. $18.00, paper.
Have you ever met pig that is able to talk? How about one that is able to walk upright on two legs? Or how about a pig who is unable to control his urges to steal cars, drink beer, and commit murder? Weird Pig is able to do all of that and more. In fact, he is so unique that he describes himself as being a pig who is “one in a million.” Robert Long Foreman has successfully managed to magnificently mix just the right blend of postmodern with absurdist fiction and a dose of realism that keeps us entertained, befuddled, dazzled, and laughing in his novel Weird Pig. Through a cast of characters that are all unique, baffling, and occasionally terrifying, Foreman challenges the companies and notions that are an integral part of the American way of life. Each chapter of Weird Pig confronts the different issues in a new, satirical light so that we can’t help but be drawn in and occasionally question, “What is actually going on here?”
Weird Pig is simply just that, a weird pig. Although if you ask him, he is one in a million. He is a trickster, an anti-hero, a Don Quixote tilting at windmills, or even a Huck Finn who never really changes or grows. Weird Pig never learns from his actions and he honestly doesn’t care. Through Weird Pig, Foreman gives us a character who is brilliantly flawed and terrifyingly brilliant. He is also lazy, as pigs are wont to be. Weird Pig could have brought the downfall of all of the human industrial complexes, if only he hadn’t been so easily distracted by his own porcine tendencies such as wallowing in mud for hours at a time or having mindless sex with Nancy Pig. As a character, Weird Pig isn’t likeable or even really redeemable. He says it himself, “Even my triumphs are failures. And I leave only wreckage in my wake.” But when he does almost lose his life, when “Weird Pig’s heart stopped beating, and he had to be defibrillated before he finally coughed back to life under the worried gaze of Farmer Dan and all the animals, who were overjoyed when Weird Pig was returned to them,” it wasn’t because he was liked, it was because he was theirs. He is that permanent fixture in government, at a university, in a family that no one actually likes but misses when he is no longer there.
Foreman grounds Weird Pig in the first chapter when he sets an adopted Weird Pig up in a room that features symbols from a by-gone era. Familiar figures such as Farrah Fawcett, the Oakland Raiders, and going out to TGI Fridays for celebratory dinner. All of these familiar things provide us with an idea that this absurdist tale could take place. We don’t find it odd that a pig can learn how to walk on two legs using a government-issued skateboard because Weird Pig tells us that he loves to eat porkchops and “You’re not eating my friends and cousins. I’m nothing like those pigs. I am Weird Pig. I am one in a million.” Everything that follows this statement seems like it could happen and because of this, Foreman sets up the rest of the novel and his challenging of the so-called American way of life.
The first notion that Foreman challenges is that of modern-day suburbia. When people consider the idea of suburbia, it typically conjures up images of green lawns, kids playing outside, and a beloved Golden Retriever or perhaps a Labradoodle in the backyard that has been adopted from an animal shelter in an attempt to “adopt, don’t shop.” These are all themes that are consistent on television ever since the sitcom was invented. The happy stay-at-home mom and a father who works to provide for the family. Foreman immediately challenges the notion that life is better in suburban America when Steve and Linda Mayhew “adopt Weird Pig as an extra challenge that would bring them closer together.” Is adopting Weird Pig akin to adopting a child from another country or is it like adopting a dog at a shelter? In this case, I would say it is a mix of both and in that absurdity we are given Weird Pig.
Weird Pig creates havoc and mayhem everywhere he goes. He can’t help it. It’s his nature to cause destruction and he has no concept of the fact that what he is doing could be wrong. He is, after all, just a pig even if he is “one in a million” as he likes to remind everyone around him. Weird Pig seems to want to do the right thing, but somewhere along the way, he ends up forgetting and doing the exact opposite. He becomes a children’s storybook icon when he goes to New York City and through that exposes the editorial industry. He steals a car to win money in Las Vegas and instead of handing it over to save the farm, he hides it in a suitcase in the pig shed. He attempts to free fellow animals and ends up burning down a farm. Every time Weird Pig attempts to do something good he falls short.
The novel is written in a series of short vignettes that focus on different aspects of the life of Weird Pig, but also includes short chapters from the perspective of other characters. In a series of seemingly unconnected stories, Foreman provides us with a comprehensive novel that confronts addiction, gun control, industrial farming, higher education, and fatherhood. The three-part construction of the novel with twenty-two individual chapters that read like a series of short stories gives an overall impression of the modern-American life. The ease of technological and pharmaceutical addiction, the decline of the individual family farms, the editorial process, the ease of gun ownership, and even the idea of the family among several other aspects of life are not spared by Foreman in this novel. I would recommend this novel those who enjoy George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut. Satirical absurdism abounds in this work and it forces us to stop and consider the ramifications of every idea that Foreman brings into question.
Christina Ghent lives and writes in South Carolina where her family has settled down after having lived all over the world. She has received her MA from Winthrop University and continues to hone her craft.