Ten years ago, my mother recommended a book she had read during her childhood: The Pigman by Paul Zindel. Since then, I have read The Pigman several times. The main characters, John and Lorraine, narrate alternating chapters. Lorraine and John hang out with two assholes named Dennis and Norton, but they do not acknowledge Dennis and Norton as friends. When they hang out, they prank call random people, whose names are listed in an ancient device known as a “phonebook”; they try to keep people on the line for as long as possible. Lorraine, secretly peeking at the names, calls an old dude named Angelo Pignati, and she tells him that she is collecting donations for the L&J fund. Lorraine and John decide to meet Mr. Pignati, with whom they develop a friendship. Their relationship to Mr. Pignati eventually leads to his death, which is not a spoiler because it is acknowledged at the beginning of the book.
I’ve read this book so many times because it is funny. I love both the main characters. Especially John. I have a habit of developing crushes on male characters in books. Even though I was nine the first time I read The Pigman, my crush on John developed very quickly. During the first chapter, he describes pranks he has pulled at school. My favorite was the “supercolossal fruit roll”, which could only happen on Wednesdays, and only when there was a substitute teacher after lunch. When he gives the signal, everyone in the class simultaneously rolls their apples towards the teacher. He’s funny, and he’s a bad boy. Although he hides it, he is also a compassionate person, which is evident from his friendship with Lorraine. As Lorraine says, “The fact that I’m his best friend shows he isn’t as insensitive to Homo sapiens as he makes believe he is,” (Zindel 9). Before she was friends with John, Lorraine was a loner, but one day, John sat next to her on the bus and they just started laughing, uncontrollably, over nothing.
Lorraine is a smart girl. Her overall tone is serious, but she also employs humor in her chapters. She is often exasperated with John; the first sentence we read from Lorraine says “I should never have let John write the first chapter because he always has to twist things subliminally” (Zindel 6). Both Lorraine and John have challenging home lives, which may have encouraged them to spend more time with Mr. Pignati. Both characters have ambitious goals for their futures: John plans to be an actor, and Lorraine wants to write.
There was one aspect of The Pigman that bothered me. John describes his Aunt Ahra who is confined to her bathtub for three days. She is only discovered when she throws a bottle of shampoo out the window, and her neighbor thinks it the handiwork of young vandals, so they call the police. Mr. Pignati is also afflicted with oldness and loneliness. His best friend is an ugly baboon at the zoo. Mr. Pignati’s loneliness is also clear from his excitement over Lorraine’s prank phone call, during which she pretends to be a volunteer for the made-up L&J fund. It makes me worry that when I get old, all I have to look forward to is loneliness. I know a lady down the street whose only companions are cats. Cats. Can you imagine? At least I know it will never be that bad for me. I’ll have dogs instead. However, dogs will not stop me from being stranded in a bathtub. I imagined myself with a bottle of shampoo as my only means of communication. However, I remembered that since The Pigman was written (1968), cell phones have been invented. Nevertheless, the idea of being as lonely as the Mr. Pignati and Aunt Ahra is frightening.
On that cheerful note, have a great day!