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This article is taken from PN Review 213, Volume 40 Number 1, September - October 2013.

Liminal, Ludic and Disruptive: Christopher Middleton's Short Prose Drew Milne
Christopher Middleton's short text 'Chicken Factory' begins with a cook observing chicken breast in a sizzling pan. The text then takes a surprising turn or two around the block:

Every chicken is rationalized: lacking that organized society of boxed chickens, chickens which never murmured an obscure pre-Marxist cluck to the mud or to the moon, many of us other earthlings would have no supper tonight. Such are the stratifications of reason. The chicken workers harrumph and get on with it.1

A double take is required to construe the delayed grammatical force of 'lacking', and having come back down to earth, the deadpan leaves open how we might distinguish the Marxist cluck from its feathered pre-Marxist friends. Not for this cook the guilt of complicity with factory-farmed chicken, but a worker who guffaws, and who thinks: 'A nohow screaming Stalinese at mud, moon, chicken, cook, and at unblinking Edward Thompson. A tocsin, thinks the cook, to arouse the blind' (p. 25). The unblinking Thompson, presumably none other than E.P. Thompson, author of The Making of the English Working Class (1963), is an eye-opener, someone who raises alarm bells at the prospects of nuclear catastrophe: a tocsin rather than a toxin. In short order, the text then finds space to venture beyond such ludic ideological mischief, into a terse and suggestively political paragraph on the 'rationalizations' of Atatürk, before ending, no less suggestively: 'You want an unsuppressed rooster? But the monks are all in their bunks, dead ...


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