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Extended Audio Sample Pyg: The Memoirs of Toby, the Learned Pig Audiobook, by Russell Potter Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (136 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Russell Potter Narrator: Simon Callow Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2012 ISBN: 9781101579640
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A heartwarming debut introduces readers to the adventures of its overachieving porcine narrator.

Blending the sophisticated satire of Jonathan Swift with the charming exuberance of a Pixar film, Pyg tells the story of Toby, a truly exceptional pig who lived in late eighteenth-century England. After winning the blue ribbon at the Salford Livestock Fair and escaping the butcher’s knife, Toby tours the country, wowing circus audiences with his abilities to count, spell, and even read the minds of ladies (but only with their permission, of course). He goes on to study at Oxford and Edinburgh—encountering such luminaries as Samuel Johnson, Robert Burns, and William Blake—before finally writing his own life story. Quirky, beguiling, and endlessly entertaining, this memoir of a “remarkable sapient pig” is a sharp and witty delight.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Written in a delightfully erudite, faux early 19th century prose . . . a multi-layered, rumbustious romp which the author pulls off cum laude. The Observer (London)
  • A delicious book. A reminder of the risks, the drama and the quite extraordinary comedy of being born with a snout, four hooves, and a corkscrew tail.

    Marie Darrieussecq, author of Pig Tales

  • “The protagonist and, as it were, first-porcine narrator of this quirky little book is a pig called Toby…In Russell Potter’s magical rendering …he is not only a prescient pig but also a reflective one, with a Swiftian eye on mankind’s mores.”

    Washington Post

  • The protagonist and, as it were, first-porcine narrator of this quirky little book is a pig called Toby. . . . In Russell Potter’s magical rendering . . . he is not only a prescient pig but also a reflective one, with a Swiftian eye on mankind’s mores. The Washington Post
  • Everything about Russell Potter’s debut novel Pyg indicated that it had potential to be a charming read but nothing prepared me for the totally immersion I felt. As each page seemed to fly by I found myself not only believing Potter was an immensely talented and capable author but that Toby, the learned pig who was the purported true ‘author’ of the book with Potter simply editing his porcine scribblings, was the damnedest pig I’d ever had the pleasure of getting to know. . . . Toby is a vibrant and amazingly alive and TRUE character that only comes once in a while in the very rarest of books and I simply do not have the words adequate to thank Mr. Potter for this book and for that magical pig’s entrance into my own imagination. He lives there now at the side of Peter Pan, Nicholas Nickleby, Harry Potter, and any other number of adventurous souls of fiction. Michael Jones, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  • Embracing the idiosyncracies of 18th-century italicization and capitalization practices, set in a nice Caslon Antique type, and with a 1798 woodcut illustration of a learned pig at the start of each chapter (a nice touch), this is not only a very entertaining and enjoyable read, but also a lovely little book. . . . Added bonuses are the cameo appearances by such literary luminaries as Samuel Johnson, William Blake, Anna Seward, and Robert Burns, and Potter's (Toby's) sharp sense of 18th-century style and sensibility. Deeply funny, brilliantly satirical and also just a darn good story. PhiloBiblos
  • In this charming debut novel, Potter imagines—fully and movingly—the story of the ‘learned pig’ . . . . It’s a very clever roman à clef; Toby, with his earnest, understandable quest to be more than a source of amusement, animates this fable about enslavement, liberal education, and, perhaps, animal rights. The use of old-fashioned typography, capitalization, and woodcuts complement the 18th-century prose style, creating an immensely readable, clever, and fun novel. Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • This is an Oxbridge pig; you might dub him an oinktellectual, a rational, shrewd observer of flawed humanity. Toby shines light on our human qualities, lending due distance to how we might view them: our capacity for loyalty, friendship, all the deadly sins, curiosity, fear of death, vulnerability and a yearning for recognition, whatever our worth. It is the most ordinary of tales, made extraordinary not by the ‘freakishness’ of its ‘author’ but by the humanity. Which is what captivates and touches, and makes the book worth reading. The Scotsman
  • In prose that manages to be both dense and arch, Toby relates his escape from the butcher’s knife with the help of his friend Sam . . . all good clean fun. The Times (London)
  • “Toby is a vibrant and amazingly alive and TRUE character that only comes once in a while in the very rarest of books and I simply do not have the words adequate to thank Mr. Potter for this book and for that magical pig’s entrance into my own imagination.”

    Seattle Post-Intelligencer 

  • “In prose that manages to be both dense and arch, Toby relates his escape from the butcher’s knife with the help of his friend Sam…all good clean fun.”

    The Times (London)

  • “In this charming debut novel, Potter imagines—fully and movingly—the story of the ‘learned pig’…It’s a very clever roman à clef; Toby, with his earnest, understandable quest to be more than a source of amusement, animates this fable about enslavement, liberal education, and, perhaps, animal rights.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • Deeply funny, brilliantly satirical and also just a darn good story.”

    PhiloBiblos

  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dan Verner | 2/14/2014

    " Thanks to former student Lisa Hope Vierra-Moore for recommending this delightful book, ostensibly written by Toby, the "sapient pig" who is saved from the butcher and sets out on journey whereby he learns to communicate using letters on cards. I won't disclose more of the story, except to say that the narrative puts me in mind of the readings in my 18th century lit classes, and particularly the picaresque novels (or should I say in this case the PIGaresque novels). Toby encounters the literati of his time, including Samuel Johnson and observes the human world with wisdom and melancholy. There's satire and emotion in this tale, and I found myself thinking that Toby must be a distantly related ancestor of the Geico gecko in his gentleness and adventurous spirit. Highly recommended, with a caveat that the custom of capitalizing Nouns of the time makes for thick going at first. Enjoy! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mike Wittig | 2/10/2014

    " Light Enjoyable. Would have been rated higher were it not for the long epilogue "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Matt | 1/28/2014

    " This book had much potential, I thought. Unfortunately, it was simply the bland journey of a learned pig around the British Isles in the eighteenth-century. Other than an opportunity to name-drop the shining lights of the late 1700s, there's really not much to the book. I almost stopped reading when the titular Toby recruits William Wilberforce to help him free a mistreated (predictably) black pig. No other episode was quite as cringeworthy, but none was more interesting, either. The footnotes section at the end could have redeemed it but came across, as did much of the rest of the book, as meaninglessly pretentious. Unfortunately I could not have cared less about the fate of the narrator and, consequently, should probably have skipped this porcine memoir. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Timothy Rush | 1/5/2014

    " Really wanted to like this book more. Great story concept, and the plot matched the chosen setting well, but the memoir style for the book made it all less... everything. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Della Huff | 12/30/2013

    " I thought this was delightful. I loved Toby's character and unique voice - one of the better characters I've encountered in awhile. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrea | 12/2/2013

    " Charlotte's Web for adults . . . "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ron | 12/1/2013

    " Writing style didn't catch my fancy "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 MaPo | 11/30/2013

    " Fun break. Made me think differently about being human. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Manish Katyal | 9/13/2013

    " Read about the Sapient Pig - written by a contemporary author in Olde English style. Starts out well and then fades. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alastair | 3/22/2013

    " adorable, elegant, just profound enough. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Darla Woodworth | 3/22/2013

    " What was the point? Wish it was possible to give 2.5 stars. Seems too harsh to give 2 stars. Reading this book didn't make my life better, it wasn't a thrilling story, and I really didn't care about Toby by the second half of the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sue | 3/14/2013

    " Although I found I had to get into the language of the book which took a few pages, the story was funny, and engaging. That little pig had quite the sense of humour and I really got into the rhythm of the book. Who thought a pig would have so much insight. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel | 12/16/2012

    " Not my usual type of book, but very cleverly written, drawing from historical fact. An enjoyable little novella, styled for the time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Patricia | 11/12/2012

    " A pleasant enough read, to be sure, even though it isn't the most stimulating of plots. Toby is a charming hero. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chris | 9/17/2012

    " Doesn't quite rise as high as it aims. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Michelle | 9/8/2012

    " For some reason, I couldn't resist reading a pig's memoir. Toby himself is absolutely charming but I couldn't help but wonder if the motive for this book wasn't propelled by animal rights vegans (sneaky and bravo). "

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About the Author

Russell Potter is a professor of English at Rhode Island College. Pyg is his first novel.

About the Narrator

Simon Callow is an actor, director, and writer. He has appeared in many films, including the hugely popular Four Weddings and a Funeral. His books include Being an Actor, Shooting the Actor, a highly acclaimed biography of Charles Laughton, a biographical trilogy on Orson Welles (of which the first two parts have now been published), and Love Is Where It Falls, an account of his friendship with the great play agent Peggy Ramsay. His most recent book, My Life in Pieces, won the Sheridan Morley Prize in 2011.