Sole survivor little pig laments brothers’ misfortune

My sons have a Three Little Pigs book. I thought this was the same story I had known as a child. But after reading it for the 300th time, I decided it really isn’t the same story.

It’s like the same story. The pigs build houses out of different materials, and the big, bad wolf summarily blows them down, or not, depending upon the construction rating of the materials. Yet there is one key element missing that makes it completely different from the story I knew.

In the story I recall, the straw pig and the sticks pig were warned that their materials were inadequate in the face of the wolf’s hurricane threat. The pigs go on to use these substandard materials in open mockery of the danger.

In my kids’ book, the pigs are turned out of their mother’s house as young adults, with no discernible construction know-how. They build their respective houses of the first materials they encounter, and they do a fine job, considering their lack of both experience and hands. No one advises them, and they are unaware of the danger posed by the wolf. This small difference changes the entire meaning of the story.

Pigs who are warned about the dangers of cutting corners in their construction projects, make the story about consequences of lazy, negligent decisions. These pigs ignored the risk because taking it into their calculations was inconvenient. They wanted quick and easy housing, so they took out the fairy tale equivalent of interest-only mortgages.

The straw and sticks pigs lived just long enough to realize the error of their ways, because there are no second chances for foolish fairy tale pigs. Their flimsy houses were no protection against the wolf and they were eaten up. This harsh punishment is why it is important to learn life’s lessons quickly.

The third little pig took his time and did it right. Hard-working and conscientious, his reward was not that he became a reality show star, or undeservedly wealthy. His reward was simply that he did not get eaten up. He lived on in the security of his sound judgment and prospered through the sweat of his own brow. But most importantly, he didn’t get eaten up.

There is a clear connection between actions and consequences in this story.

The pigs live

In this Disney film version, the two lazy pigs actually mock the third pig’s industry. They all take refuge in the house of brick and survive. Judging by the wall art, they are more fortunate than their father.

When the pigs are not warned about the quality of their building materials, the end results are much more dependent upon fate than upon the respective decisions of the pigs.

Each of the pigs uses the first building material he finds. No one says, “You know, for a little extra money, you could go with brick and really up your anti-wolf rating.” The material used is the result of happenstance.

The third little pig is just plain lucky. He happens upon a cart of bricks. He acts exactly as the others acted, and his life is saved by circumstance. He is not eaten up only because he was in the right place at the right time.

There is a certain amount of right place, right time in life, but our actions affect the chances of our being in that sweet spot. I don’t want my boys stumbling upon random materials out of which to build their lives, thinking there’s nothing to be gained by doing a little work to find out which is best. Sometimes it feels like the big bad wolf is bound to eat us up no matter what we do. But we have the power to give ourselves a fighting chance, if we work at it.

I’m going to have to warn those pigs myself. I’m going off script, old school. Those pigs will know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. So when two get eaten up, it will still be sad, but we won’t be mourning a tragedy devoid of rhyme or reason.

The review police cast a wide net

A few years ago, the complaints about fake reviews on Amazon reached a level Amazon could not ignore. They tightened their reviewing policy and purged reviews that smelled funny to them.

Having seen enough fishy reviews on Amazon’s pages, I thought this was a good move. I feel like I can pick out insincere reviews, but, apparently, not everyone can. Besides, they can get to be annoying, when they are not entertaining, behind their veneer of deceit.

I wasn’t affected by the purges, so I never bothered to learn how Amazon determined which reviews were frauds. Time went by and I didn’t much consider the issue.

Amazon reviews can be very helpful in promoting your book. In spite of this, I decided I would try to avoid the temptation to ask for reviews with A Housefly in Autumn. The really valuable reviews are the ones people are inspired to write by their experience with the product itself. I didn’t want anyone writing a review because they felt obliged to do it.

So far I have stayed true to my intention. I have not asked anyone for a review. Consequently, after nearly a month, I have few reviews. I would have had one more, except the Amazon purge has finally struck me.

I kicked off my book with a release party. Not wanting to be alone at my party, I invited people I know. They humbled me by the way they gladly turned out. One of the attendees is a co-worker. She paid her hard-earned money for a copy, took it home and read it.

She liked it. She liked it a lot. Without any prompting, she wrote a review on Amazon. It was a short review, but it was heartfelt. I felt honored by it.

It was also short-lived. Within a day, Amazon purged it. She inquired about this and was told that she was not eligible to review this item.

They didn’t say why she was ineligible. I suspect it is a combination of her not having reviewed much on Amazon previously, the shortness of the review, the fact that it was not a “verified” Amazon purchase (she bought it at my party), and the fact that she lives in my town.

The official rules. Did the review in question violate them?

The official rules. Did the review in question violate them?

I’m disappointed at losing her review, but I am not irate with Amazon. I know they mean well and they can’t investigate every review on its own merits.

I feel as though this was an honest review. The reviewer paid for the book. No review was solicited of her, and she was in no way compensated for it. She has no economic interest in the book. The only connection she has is that she knows the author.

I hope Amazon does not consider proximity to be too much an indicator of fraud. After all, who will the non-famous author market to first, if not his own community. I would discourage family members from reviewing my books, but how far away from me must that line be drawn?

What do you think? Was this a valid review? Should people who know the author be prohibited from reviewing his books? Where should Amazon draw the line?