When is a cow not a cow, and a story not (much of) a story?–David Duchovny’s “Holy Cow!”

Maybe it’s just that it’s spring, all things are budding and blooming, and once again I’ve begun my hunt for the perfectly (or even imperfectly) uplifting book, possibly one with a message, or just one with a lot of fun to it.    I had wondered if David Duchovny’s book Holy Cow! would be it.  It wasn’t.  Perceive me as seriously underwhelmed, both in the uplifting-message and the amusement department.

Since there’s not much point in worrying about spoilers and such when a book has no suspense anyway (especially not of the literary kind), here’s what the book is basically “about”:

A cow named Elsie, a pig first named Jerry who then re-names himself “Shalom,” and a turkey named Tom, all of whom suddenly acquire the ability to read and operate technology, decide to leave the farm and go (respectively) to India, Israel, and Turkey, where they expect to elude their seeming fates as human food and be appreciated (or worshipped, in Elsie’s case) as the individuals they are.  Fair enough.  But the book’s jokes are hokey and fall flat, the twists and turns of the “plot” are unsurprising or at least unrewarding, and the “message” at the end, that we should all (humans as well as animals) appreciate that we are animals and work a better deal out between our higher and lower faculties, is not handled well, and comes out facile and silly.  The whole is clearly not an allegory, and even mentions George Orwell’s famous book Animal Farm, which is.  The later book mentions that an ordinary farm is not like Orwell’s allegorical one, which seems to initiate a departure point for Duchovny’s story, yet the point seems to be obvious:  this is a story with talking animals which is not an allegory.  So what?  It doesn’t make it as a fairy tale either, and is not one which I can imagine children taking an interest in (or adults finding enough satisfaction in to keep then reading, unless they had committed to do a post on the book, like yours truly).

The three animals travel together (and the improbabilities of this roving life are not overcome by any startling or marvelous events such as we are used to in fantasy fiction), and in each of the three target countries, they are disappointed of their goals to be individuals.  Their learning curves are very unstupendous, as they don’t change much in the choices they anticipate for themselves, Elsie (for example) returning to the farm, to the ordinary cow’s life, quite possibly.

So, what do I advise about this book?  Give it a miss, unless you are just a sort of person who’s curious about what celebrities think about in their spare time.  The “I-wrote-this-book” element comes in strongly at the end, when Duchovny presents himself as the “cow-writer” (by unamusing analogy with “ghost-writer”?).  Though I rarely pan a book wholeheartedly, this is one that I really do dislike, not for any big overwhelming thing it does wrong, but just because it’s boring and the choices are ones that are expected and dull.  But then, I guess that is a big overwhelming thing!  The author is listed in the credits as an actor, director, and writer.  I suppose it’s cranky to say he should stick to acting, where others provide him with words, and where a lot of us like him.  I’ve never seen anything he’s directed, and so can’t comment about that.  But if this a representation of his abilities as a writer, then he needs a writing class which focuses on topic (I didn’t really notice much wrong with his stylistics or grammar, but perhaps that’s because I was slogging through the book looking for content).  And now, I think I’ll take a dose of spring tonic to get over my bitchy mood, and look for a better book to read and review.










Filed under Articles/reviews, Full of literary ambitions!, What is literature for?

7 responses to “When is a cow not a cow, and a story not (much of) a story?–David Duchovny’s “Holy Cow!”

  1. The good news is Duchovny is reprising his role as Denise in Twin Peaks which is good news! I must say I was surprised by your choice of book, it isn’t the usual fare and I’m not surprised to find you weren’t a fan of it. After the disappointment of not finding After Rain in the bookshop, I am relieved to be able to give this a miss as well. Whatever book you pick next will be a lot better, it couldn’t be much worse it seems.


    • As a matter of fact, I’m nearly done with another sort of off-beat book right now, a YA book whose title intrigued me and led me to think it was something it wasn’t. But I like it better than Duchovny’s, the only problem being that the library website I get it on is suddenly malfunctioning this morning, and I can’t sign in to finish it up. So, I guess I’ll have to wait to post about it until, if, and when….

      Liked by 1 person

      • Technology is rubbish…sometimes anyway, best not be too mean in case it’s listening. YA is always a nice distraction from the heavier novels, I may have to join you in that sometime.


  2. What an odd-sounding book, Victoria! Reminds me, however, of a series I loved as a child, the Freddie books, about a pig and his friends. Just captivated me.


    • If only it HAD been about a pig and his friends! It struck the false note precisely because it wasn’t a simple animal story and also wasn’t a pure allegory, but tried to be a playful but “teaching” lesson for adults and children alike, and came across at the moralizing end as quite pretentious, oh, I don’t know, I didn’t like the book. It came out as E. B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” put through a meat grinder. You know, bits and pieces, but nothing substantial left.


  3. I just watched Duchovny in the series on the Manson family. He’s good. Made me wonder why more actors, who are usually intelligent and sensitive, aren’t also writers. Then I remembered your review!

    It’s hard to practice just one art well.


    • Yes, I believe he is well-liked as an actor, and though I only caught him in a few episodes of “X-Files,” I have to say he certainly lent believability to that role, which as a sci-fi sort of show would otherwise have been a special interest (one which I do share with lots of other people, but I am very picky and choosy about what sci-fi I watch). I never acquired the fever for the show that some people had, but in the episodes I caught, he was definitely good by most television standards. IMHO, of course!


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