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.