a Modern-Day Dairy Tale
by David Duchovny
25 Words or Less:
A cow embarks on an epic philosophical, spiritual and geographical odyssey – and gets milked daily and eats lots of grass. And wanders about. Narratively speaking.
Formatting, Grammar & Spelling:
Professional. No errors noted. American English. There also promise to be further pictures by the cover artist, Natalya Balnova, as one appears towards the end of the first chapter.
Characterisation, Dialogue & Prose:
We only have Elsie Bovary to speak of, as it is her unexpectedly erudite yet earthy mental ruminations that comprise the text. This is a stream-of-consciousness monologue on the part of, presumably, the titular cow one sees spread eagled on the cover. A cow surprisingly well read on human-centric topics ranging from novelty ice cream* flavours to classic literature, both children’s and Ancient Greek. A cow with a weakness for bad puns (if that isn’t a tautology). I imagine there’s a Madame Bovary quip lurking in this novel’s future…
* my research team informs me that I’m thinking of Cherry Garcia here. apologies.
Was I enticed by the story so far? Yes. Let’s keep this simple, because in practical terms not a lot happens here: our cow narrator/protagonist introduces herself and confirms our prejudices about the average cow’s daily grind (I thought about saying dairy grind just there, a witticism which Elsie would probably approve of): wake up, get milked, eat grass and gossip in the field, get milked, sleep in the barn, repeat. However, there’s also the small matter of all animals sharing a kind of universal language amidst their squeaks and grunts, and them being at least as intelligent as humans. They know about Animal Farm, and Charlotte’s Web, and Jerry Garcia, and Homer (not, probably, the one from The Simpsons).
She also makes a few pointed observations about the bovine condition that might feel strangely familiar. Like how Elsie’s father was never around, growing up; he just appeared in her mother’s life long enough to provide another sister or brother and then left. Like how the boy cows tend to spend a lot of time just staring at the girl cows, to the point where it can feel a bit uncomfortable. Like how, one day, her mother wasn’t there any more. No warning: one day she’s with us, the next, gone.
But that’s just a part of life, and — though Elsie could never imagine leaving her daughters without warning, she loves them too much — she grew up knowing that, one day, she’d do the same to them, unthinkable though it is. But all that changed after… the Event.
End of sample, basically. As Elsie might say: Bombshell.
Imagine my delight when, after my last review churned up a plodding, ham-fisted thriller allegedly by Agent Dana Scully, I discovered Fox Mulder had written a cow-based philosophical comedy. The only question was whether Morrissey’s linguistically autistic piece of pseudo-art was going to make this seem unreasonably profound by comparison.
I was indeed all ready to point and laugh at the emperor’s new clothes, and for a paragraph or two I thought I was going to have that pleasure… but… damnit, it’s funny, and there’s a foreshadowing of emotional depth lurking beneath the silly puns and weak one-liners, a sort of relentless momentum building even in this short sample. Could be a good one, this.
In spite of my expectations, I find myself on board with Holy Cow. Push through the first few paragraphs, suspend your disbelief (both generally, and at the wince-inducing jokes), and you may find there’s something worth your time here.
TO BUY LIST
= Technicalities =
Title: Holy Cow
Author: David Duchovny
Price: $4.79 (October 2015)