Fantastic Mr. Fox, Roald Dahl
Acquired: late 2008, Pendragon Books.
I opted for some lighter fare after finishing Alice Munro's Runaway. To be truthful, I had started another book, a Steampunk thriller that came highly recommended: Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. I read the three-page intro and wanted to vomit (sorry). I intend to come back to it but perhaps it was too much of an adjustment from the quietly moving Munro stories. I did a quick scan of the bookshelf, and intead Mr. Fox jumped out at me.
This is a short book of 90 large-print pages, with illustrations. You could read it on a lunch break. I might be one of Roald Dahl's biggest fans, then again that's a statement which I have really no way of ever quantifying so maybe I shouldn't make that claim ... but there it is. He has the rare talent of being a sucessful writer for both young and adult audiences, with a snarky creativity that pokes fun at the world in a jovial way. I really love reading his works.
Superficially, Mr. Fox the age-old story of farmer vs. chicken-eating natural "pest", a struggle which I imagine has been around as long as hunter-gatherers. More importantly though, it's a story of the wealthy minority (the 3 greedy farmers) oppressing and trying to deny the poor and hungry masses (foxes, badgers, voles, rabbits, weasels, etc). It reminds me of the Marxist struggle between proletariat and the bourgeoisie, although I suppose the foxes aren't actually in any proper employ of the farmers. Consider this passage from Chapter 14, Badger Has Doubts:
Suddenly Badger said, 'doesn't this worry you just a tiny bit, Foxy?'
'Worry me?' said Mr Fox. 'What?'
'All this ... this stealing.'
Mr Fox stopped digging and stared at Badger as though he had gone completely dotty. 'My dear old furry frump,' he said, 'do you know anyone in the whole world who wouldn't swipe a few chickens if his children were starving to death?'
'But we're not going to stoop to their level. We don't want to kill them.'
This fox raises an important issue: is theft justified to save a life? What about an entire community? In this case, the entire hillside of woodland critters faces starvation because of the farmers' greed and selfishness. The moral high ground is obvious here, but it certainly got me thinking about poverty in our own country and the choke-hold that authority uses to protect the already-wealthy from the starving masses.
Added bonus: Foxes like to burp. So do I! How did they know?
Exciting discovery: The book is being adapted into a film Wes Anderson for release in 2009, using stop-motion animation! It's 2009 now! It's supposed to come out in November! Holy holy!
Next up: My Ántonia, Willa Cather.