Paul Zindel's The Pigman, published in 1968, was one of the first young adult books to gain a wide readership. The decade of the 1960s was a time of great change and unrest in America. This was the era of the Civil Rights Movement and the feminist movement. Young people began to question their parents' values and protested America's involvement in the war in Vietnam. A popular slogan was "Don't trust anyone over thirty." Some movies of this era, such as Harold and Maude (1971) and The Graduate (1967), like The Pigman, portray "the Establishment," the conservative adult world, as corrupt and ignorant.
The two main characters in The Pigman, high-school students John Conlan and Lorraine Jensen, are profoundly alienated from the adult authority figures in their lives – their parents and teachers. Although they reject the adult world, ironically they become friends with an older man who introduces them to his love of fun and adventure. Critics of the book point to the fact that the main characters are accomplished liars and that they cut school, drink, and smoke (John). Maybe those are some of the reasons why The Pigman was one of the most frequently banned books of the 1990s (source).
It was that unsung poet The Fresh Prince, along with his boon companion DJ Jazzy Jeff, who some years back delivered the classic, insightful lines: "Parents just don't understand." Truer words, friends, have rarely been spoken. Indeed, it would seem like Mr. Fresh and Mr. Jazzy have penetrated right to the heart of a conflict that is as old as human generations, a nugget of truth that is best summed up thusly: kids rule, adults drool.
And yet, in this book, we are given a spectacularly drool-worthy adult (we mean, who collects pigs anyway?) who, against all odds, turns out to be pretty cool. Despite Lorraine and John's initial impressions, the Pigman becomes an important part of their life, connecting with them in a meaningful way when other adults—like their parents—don't.
Sure, this relationship defies the time-tested logic that kids and adults just don't mix. But when we read The Pigman, we realize that age ain't nothin' but a number. True friendship lies in how we treat each other.
Zindel's Official Website
Including photos, interviews, and more.
Q&A on The Pigman
Zindel answers commonly asked questions on his novel.
"Journey To Meet the Pigman"
Zindel discusses the writing of the novel and the real-life inspirations for the characters of John, Lorraine, and the Pigman.
NY Times Review, 1968
A brief review of The Pigman and two other books
NY Times Obituary, 2003
Zindel died in 2003 at age 66. The NY Times wrote about his life and impact on the world of literature and theater.
The Pigman Movie Trailer
There are several interesting student-produced film versions of The Pigman on YouTube. This is one of the best.
This must be what Mr. Pignati's pigs looked like.
The Pigman's Legacy, by Paul Zindel
Interested in reading more about John and Lorraine? Check out Zindel's sequel to The Pigman.
The Pigman and Me, by Paul Zindel
In this non-fiction piece, Zindel writes about his teenage experiences and his friendship with Nonno Frankie, the man who became the inspiration behind Mr. Pignati.