Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Pigs Is Pigs and other tales

Ellis Parker Butler (1809-1937) was an author, humorist and speaker who also wrote stories that required a character to have strong moral character. His work appeared in several genres, not just humor, and he was featured in such pulps as Argosy, Amazing Stories and Sure-Fire Detective among many others.

The website maintained by John Martin is very detailed and has text of Butler's stories (all the links and art here comes from his amazing efforts). Many of the stories are accompanied by illustrations and there are many scans of beautiful and amazing cover art from the magazines that published his work. According to the site, much of Butler's work was never indexed and searching for the many sources of this prolific author was difficult and I'd describe it as a labor of love.

Mission Statement
1) To document and preserve the published works of Ellis Parker Butler.
2) To provide complete and accurate information about Ellis Parker Butler and to disseminate that information as widely as possible.
3) To create and inspire continued interest in the man and his works.
One of the great features of this site is the bibliography, which shows when and where a story was published, and how many times.

Butler's most famous work is a tale of bureaucratic bungling in the humorous story Pig Is Pigs. First published in 1905 in The American Magazine, this story is timeless and given the events in the American south over the last week, very timely also.

If you never heard of this story or a variant of it, then you've been to the wrong schools all your life. You have been deprived.

Added bonus circa 1940: Infinity Cover!
From the site: Railway agent Mike Flannery wants to charge the livestock rate for a shipment of two guinea pigs and refuses to accept the lower pet rate saying "Pigs is Pigs." The customer's complaint is routed bureaucratically throughout the railway company while the guinea pigs reproduce geometrically in Flannery's stationhouse.
Pigs Is Pigs has been widely reprinted, often imitated and outright stolen. It was even made into a Disney cartoon that was nominated for an Oscar. You may also recognize the tale as it was also adapted, at least in spirit, for a reproducing rabbits site gag in a recent credit card commercial that lampooned the check-acceptance process.

I was first exposed to this story as a kid watching cartoons on television and then later read it in school. At the time I thought, "This guy totally ripped-off Disney."

Here's a few links to stories I enjoyed. A word though, Butler was brilliant but also a product of his times. Every now and then a word or phrase that would be considered offensive today is in his work (one such word appears in Pigs Is Pigs).

From Argosy Weekly in 1918 comes Below Zero. A sleuth fights German spies who try to freeze New York.

There is humor as a man's plans for leaving a mark on the world after he dies becomes obsolete in the face of advancing technology in 1928's Solander's Radio Tomb. This tale also had art by my favorite pulp artist Frank R. Paul.

Science fiction and satire from the tale An Experiment in Gyro-Hats, first published in 1910 and reprinted many times.

The Boom In Spooks is a satirical expose of the supernatural & Medium craze from 1910.

The Automatic Baby talks about modern parenting.

Some great art

Just browsing the stories I notice some take place in the same settings as Pigs Is Pigs in the town of Westcote, and there are even three sequels featuring train agent Mike Flannery.

The site is worth a look and many of the stories are a great read. If you don't want to check it out, then make your kids put down the video game controllers and have them do it so you can get some education vicariously.



1 comment:

  1. Ooh, good stuff. I love Pigs is Pigs (both the original and the Disney adaptation) but I've never read anything else by Butler. Thanks for the links!


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