Picks and Pans Review: The Ubiquitous Pig

updated 01/11/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/11/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Marilyn Nissenson and Susan Jonas

Making a silk purse out of a sow's ear may be impossible, but journalists Nissenson and Jonas have done the next best thing: provided a well-larded pictorial look at our long and curiously affectionate relationship with the whole hog, from Greek mythology to the divine Miss Piggy.

The Chinese first tamed Sus scrofa some 5,000 years ago, and we have since used its flesh for food, its supple skin for garments and its bristles for blushes. But human involvement with this barnyard animal has long been more complex—and emotional. Look right in a pig's eye, claim defenders like writers E.B. White and Charles Lamb, and meet a stubborn, loyal, fierce and intelligent friend. Nonsense, say detractors from Dante to Johnny Carson; his bulk and lazy love of wallowing has rightly made him our prime symbol of greed and sloth.

Through 136 colorful pages, the authors' sentiments in this debate are clear. With reproductions of centuries of art, jewelry, banks and even a needle-point by Edward Gorey, Pig celebrates a fascinating animal. Pop culture offers the amiable and timid Porky Pig (the first Looney Tunes cartoon hit in the 1930s), the genteel Wilbur of Charlotte's Web and the tyrannical Napoleon of Animal Farm. Best are photos, including Lord Snowden's witty portrait of Lynchett's Princess, a prize Tamworth sow. Not to be too swinish, the only complaint about The Ubiquitous Pig is it might have contained more such pictures. (Abrams, $34.95)

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