Thursday, March 2, 2017

Holy Cow (David Duchovny)

Holy Cow
David Duchovny
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Fiction, General Fiction/Humor
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Elsie Bovary is fairly content on the small dairy farm where she lives... and might have stayed that way had she not snuck out of the stable one night and seen the Box God, the talking screen the humans worship, and its horrific scenes of something called a "slaughterhouse." Suddenly, she knows what happened to the mother who disappeared one day - and what will eventually happen to her friends, and to her. But even as it shows her visions of damnation, the Box God offers salvation when it tells her of a land where cattle are treated like gods: India. Along with the pig Jerry (a recent convert to Judaism, who prefers to be called Shalom) and turkey Tom (who is looking for a way to permanently avoid the Thanksgiving cull, and who is remarkably adept at using a cell phone), Elsie sets out on the journey of a lifetime.

REVIEW: Holy Cow has a fun, original concept and distinctive, if often overexaggerated and flat, characters but seems a little unsure of what it wants to do with itself. In the meantime, it dithers around with amusing (more or less) tangents and asides from the narrator Elsie, whose worldview is remarkably human most of the time; she even drops hints about which actress she'd want to play her should the book become a movie. Even a silly story - and this is indeed a silly, often slapstick story, despite the odd attempt at depth and profundity - requires some suspension of disbelief to enjoy, but it kept tripping me up, if not with Elsie's too-human voice than with other characters also being too human to be animals, or with plain physical improbabilities, like Elsie being a milking cow despite not having been bred or given birth. An afterword by the author tries to paper over these issues, but two problems mar this effort. First, by the time I reach the afterword, I've already read the book. Second, if technicalities are preventing me from enjoying an otherwise lighthearted, clearly unrealistic tale, then something else must be wrong. I regularly suspend disbelief for far more improbable things, such as sound traveling through space or giant winged reptiles breathing fire (or vast alien conspiracies behind the  government.) But I just couldn't maintain that suspension here. The book was just too much puff and style with too little substance and action, not helped by the ending (no spoilers, though it seemed to render much of the journey moot... or, should I say, mooo-t.) I laughed here and there, but overall it felt like it was trying too hard, and thus wound up accomplishing too little of what it set out to do.

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