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Stealing Will Self's Pig

It is not often an author is driven by circumstances to steal another author's pig, but recent scandalous events forced my hand.

 Some of you will recall my glee when I was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize a few weeks ago, alongside such old and new stars as Alan Bennett, Will Self, Garrison Keillor and Joe Dunthorne.

A noble prize, previously won by books such as Vernon God Little, and A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, the winner is showered in champagne and given a pig at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in Wales, just over the border from England. (You don't get to keep the pig, but they name it after your book, and take your photo with it, to the great amusement of future generations).

You can imagine then my dismay when I discovered, shortly afterwards, buried in the small print of the Hay-on-Wye festival programme, the odd phrase "Will Self, winner of the 2008  Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize." Winner? WINNER?!?!?!

As the festival program had gone to print before the shortlist was announced, this meant that the prize committee had picked the winner before they had announced, or perhaps even picked, the shortlist. It was a stitch-up. But worse, I had been denied my rightful month of anticipation, tingling, hiccups and giddy excitement.

Also I'd put serious money on Alan Bennett to win. His The Uncommon Reader is a little masterpiece. Something had to be done.

I thought long and hard. The prize is named after that comic god, P. G. Wodehouse, inventor of Jeeves and Wooster. What, I thought would Wodehouse have done, faced with such provocation? Sat in his room and written another comic novel, probably. That's how he reacted to everything, including World War 2. As I was already sitting in a room writing a comic novel this wasn't much help. Action was called for, dash it. So I asked myself, what would P. G. Wodehouse's greatest creation Bertie Wooster do, nobly backed by the genius of his manservant Jeeves?


And the answer came to me as in a vision - as though the ghost of Wodehouse himself whispered in my ear - he would steal the pig.

 will self's pig.jpg

For if there is one constant in the work of P. G. Wodehouse, from Pigs Have Wings to Pig Hooey, it is that God put pigs on this good green earth to be kidnapped. Not a chapter goes by without somebody chloroforming Lord Emsworth's favourite sow, The Empress of Blandings.


And thus I made my way to the Welsh borders and, with the assistant of my trusty gentleman's gentleman, Jeeves (not his real name, but he would like to remain anonymous for some reason), I stole Will Self's pig.

I sent the organisers this, ah, pignapping video, containing my ransom demands. Tense negotiations continued up until the last minute. They, understandably, did not wish to give the prize to the man who had stolen their pig. I offered, as a very reasonable compromise, to deliver the pig to Alan Bennett's door in London if they would re-award the prize to him. They baulked - Will Self was in the program - his angry fans, denied, might rampage, torching tents, incinerating Gore Vidal in his invalid chair... The intervention of a bishop almost led to a compromise candidate (Joe Dunthorne), but we ran out of time.

This, of course, left them one pig short for the prize ceremony. And thus it was that, as you may have read in the Guardian and Bookseller over the weekend, Will Self was not awarded his pig. I was wondering how they would get over this, and so I attended the ceremony in disguise. The organisers, rather anticlimactically, pretended an outbreak of pig disease had kept the pig away, and they showed a video of a pig instead.

And so the situation rests.  The pig is in a safe place, and receiving the best of care.  For now.

It is to be hoped that the organisers of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize will give in to my very reasonable demands and re-award the Wodehouse Prize to Alan Bennett. Otherwise, I'm afraid they will get their pig back sausage by sausage.

Harsh, I know, but when you mess with the affections of six comic novelists, somebody's going to get hurt. 

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Reader Comments (17)

This is truly a Wodehousian solution. I am sure the pig is quite happy, though perhaps longing for his sows?
May 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCharlaine Harris
Glad you approve, Charlaine. The pig is well and happy, don't worry. One can learn a surprising amount about the care and maintenance of pigs from Wikipedia. And of course a lifetime of reading Wodehouse's stories of Blandings Castle gave me a firm grounding in basic pig husbandry.

My God, they can eat, though.
May 28, 2008 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough
I hope he's supplied with plenty of shite to keep him happy.

Oh, there will be no shortage of shite round these parts, believe me, Noel.
May 29, 2008 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough
My only reservation about this is the heavy-handed phrase 'pig kidnapping'. A pignap, surely?
May 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterOliver
Julian, how does your wife put up with two bores, sorry, boars in one house?

What do you call a pig with three eyes?

A piiig
Oliver, you are quite right. "Pignap" is far more graceful.

Noel, I shall deal with your impertinence next time I'm in Tipp... which may be sooner than you think...
May 30, 2008 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough
What fools these programme compilers be. Alan Bennett's also contributed to the pignapping genre with 'A Private Function', hasn't he...
June 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDickon Edwards
Blimey, you've got quite a posh voice. Didn't expect that from the blog, somehow.
June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSputter and Run
Do I? Egad. Actually, it was the Wodehouse Effect. There's something about pignapping in a frock coat and cravat that shuffles the diphthongs about. By the time the pig is in the trailer, one's speech is indistinguishable from that of any random member of the Drones Club. Pongo Twistleton, perhaps. Or Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps.

However, though I do know an alarming, almost sinister, number of Old Etonians these days, I remain an Old Boy of Nenagh Christian Brothers School in North Tipperary. My accent moves along a spectrum, at one end of which is Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, and at the other a bachelor farmer from Ballylusky.

You should hear me at a Tipperary funeral. Arra, whisht!
June 9, 2008 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough
Did you practice that elegant fence-leaping at around 2.10 beforehand, or is it a skill you've been nurturing over the years?

How and where is the pig now?
July 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSam Jordison
Hullo Sam,

I have leapt elegantly over many's the fence in my youth. You can't grow up wearing a damask silk frockcoat in rural Tipperary and not get pretty good at leaping fences. Often the pursuing mob would break into involuntary applause at the elegance of my leaping.

The pig is well, and happy. I have many, many pig-breeding relatives in Tipperary. As a result, I, more so perhaps than any novelist now living in England (I can't speak for Ireland, Scotland or Wales), know how to keep a pig happy.

He wasn't truly happy with Will Self anyway. An arranged marriage. No, him and Will, that wasn't love, it was lust.

As to the pig's current whereabouts... Hmmm.... Can't really tell you, for obvious reasons. Nice try though.

They'll never take us alive.
July 3, 2008 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough
Well, it's a very impressive - jealous-makingly impressive - skill.

Am pleased also to learn that the pig is in good hands, even if denying me knowledge of its whereabouts has cut me off from what might have been a nice little earner.

Watch your back just the same!
July 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSam Jordison
Well done! The best way to getting you way with Lord Emsworth -- all you need to do is follow Ronnie Fish's advise.

I hope the Will-Pig (You got to give it a name) does not suffer and it gets its 57,000 calories a day.
December 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRaja
And what, I ask you, is the correct response to a pignapping?
A retaliatory pignapping, of course!
May 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMinion of Self
Hey (or Hay), hands off my pig, Minion. I have grown to love it.
May 19, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough
Vietnamese pig is in the picture?
May 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergerovital

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