by Purvis McGrew
Make Believe Books, 147 pages
Reviewed by Sally Putterman
Purvis McGrew’s new book, Foxes and Chickens: an Allegory, may be the most ridiculous story this reviewer has ever reviewed.
In case you haven’t read it—and I hope you haven’t—the narrative focuses on a small farm populated by talking livestock. Life on the farm is just dandy until a lead of foxes moves into the area and an ideological schism forms. Naturally, all the chickens and pigs and things are afraid of the newly-arrived predators, but, under the banner of “fairness and balance,” the foxes set up their own television news network called—you guessed it—Fox News. Through constant media saturation they are able to convince the other animals that they are not trying to eat anyone, and are, in fact, looking out for everyone's best interest.
Life on the farm appears to go back to normal until one day a hen notices her batch of eggs is missing. Instantly, Fox News is running coverage of the story, and soon they are brandishing photos of two suspects, a rooster from Chicago named Barnyard O’Brahma and another chicken named Harry “Rhode Island” Reid. Not only are Reid and O’Brahma egg thieves, the foxes claim, but, along with their fellow chickens, they secretly plan to convert the farm to socialism.
A few of the animals are skeptical, especially a Holstein named Rachel Madcow and the farm watchdog, Keith Doberman, but they don’t stand a chance against the foxes, especially after they enlist the support of two pigs, Rush Limhog and his manic depressive little buddy, Swine Beck. Beck and Limhog soon command legions of mindless sheep trained to chant, “Fox good. Chickens liberal.”
The animals at Fox News soon grow rich and fat selling commercials for genetically modified chicken feed and a new form of hog slop that allegedly cures impotence. Meanwhile, their inept rivals over at The Chicken Channel are reduced to mindless clucking and focusing on the entertainment industry.
By now, the nature of Mr. McGrew’s allegory should be quite plain. Obviously, Fox News is a send-up of the William Randolph Hearst news organization of the 1920s and 30s. Naturally, Rhode Island Reid and Barnyard O’Brahma are meant to represent Hearst rivals, New York Governor Al Smith and William Jennings Bryan respectively. Most likely, Rachel Madcow is meant to be the famous political cartoonist, Lou Rogers, while Keith Doberman could only be the famous writer and Hearst critic, Upton Sinclair. Surely, Rush Limhog is a blatant stand-in for Orson Welles.
Why then, is Mr. McGrew so intent on satirizing Mr. Hearst and company? Haven’t these people suffered enough, especially considering the fact that they are dead? Why does Mr. McGrew insist on adding insult to death?
If all this wasn’t bad enough, Mr. McGrew also repeatedly insults the intelligence of his readers. I hate to break it to you, Mr. McGrew, but animals can’t talk and they don’t watch television. Any child can tell you this, but just to be sure this reviewer spent three weeks living in a chicken coop. After literally thousands of interviews, I can assure you that chickens don’t have the slightest interest in news or politics. Also, they stink.
I can honestly say I haven’t read anything as preposterous as Foxes and Chickens since I read another book about talking farm animals back in 1984. I forget what it was called.