- First published:
- Kiss Kiss in 1960
- Related books:
- Note: Sometimes confused with Stanley Ellin’s famous short story “Specialty of the House,” which is about a restaurant that serves a very special lamb dish. Ellin’s story was published in 1948, whereas Dahl’s didn’t appear until 1960.
This is a pretty gruesome story and it’s not one of my favorites. I think Dahl was probably trying to comment on the way this cruel world takes innocents like Lexington and basically puts them through the meat-grinder. Except in this case… it’s literal. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this one for the kiddies.
Spoiler warning! Once upon a time, a boy named Lexington is born in New York City. Unfortunately he is soon orphaned when his parents are accidentally shot by the police, who mistake them for robbers. Lexington is sent to live with his Aunt Glosspan out in her cottage high in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is an eccentric old woman who schools him herself and raises him to be a strict vegetarian. As he grows older, Lexington starts to exhibit a talent for cooking and Aunt Glosspan encourages him to write a cookbook. By the time he is 17, he has invented over 9,000 different dishes. He is shocked when Aunt Glosspan suddenly dies, though, and he buries her himself behind the cowshed. The next day he finds a letter she has left him instructing him to go to New York and meet with her lawyer. Apparently the lawyer will read her Will and then give Lexington money to pursue his cooking ambitions. Unfortunately for the boy, the lawyer is an unscrupulous man who takes advantage of Lexington’s trusting nature and ends up giving him just $15,000 out of the $500,000 his Aunt left for him. Upon leaving the office, Lexington decides he is hungry and heads to the nearest restaurant for some dinner. To his surprise, he is served pork for the first time in his life and he finds it delicious. Eager to learn about this new food for his book, he bribes the waiter to take him back into the kitchen to meet the chef. The chef tells him though, that he can’t be sure it was pig’s meat. “There’s just a chance,” he says, “that it might have been a piece of human stuff.” He tells Lexington that they’ve been getting an awful lot of it from the butcher lately. He’s pretty sure that the piece Lexington had was pork though, so the boy asks him to show him how to prepare it. The cook says that it all begins with a properly butchered pig. Wanting to see how this is done, Lexington takes off for the packing-house in the Bronx. When he gets there he is ushered into a waiting room to await the Guided Tour. He watches as others go through the doors before him: a mother with two little boys, a young couple, and a pale woman with long white gloves. Finally his turn is called, and he is led to the “schackling area” where the pigs are grabbed, looped about the ankle with a chain, and then dragged up through a hole in the roof. While he is watching, one of the workers slips a chain around Lexington’s ankle and before he knows what is happening he is being dragged along the path as well. “Help!” he cries. “There’s been a frightful mistake!” But no one stops the engine, and he’s carried along to the sticker, who slices open the boy’s jugular vein with a knife. As the belt moves on and Lexington begins to feel faint, he sees the pigs ahead being dropped into a large cauldron of boiling water. One of the pigs seems to be wearing white gloves. Lexington’s strong heart pumps out the last of his blood, and he passes on “out of this, the best of all possible worlds, into the next.”
- “The Art of Vengeance” by Joyce Carol Oates (The New York Review of Books)
- “Getting Even” by Stephen Amidon (The Nation)
- Elsewhere on the web:
- Online illustrated version with abridged text
Criticism and Analysis
- “And For a Knife We Shall Use the Great Sword: Uncanny Cutlery and its Absence in the Fiction of Roald Dahl”
- Essay by J.C. Bernthan published in FEAST
- “Pig” – Classroom Activities
- Includes a range of reading tasks, divided into story sections