With all the hubbub about the upcoming X-Files episodes, I thought it was time to finally read David Duchovny’s novel Holy Cow. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard it talked about animal cruelty, and tolerance for others, which sounded like a pretty serious message.
This is not a serious book. This is David Duchovny being a complete goofball.
The story follows Elsie, a normal cow on a normal farm doing what all the cows on the farm do: get milked, eat, hang out in the field, eat some more, and sleep. She was fine with her life until she wandered over to the House one night and saw the images on the God Box (TV) which happened to be talking about slaughterhouses. After that everything changed.
The book gets a little preachy about man’s treatment of animals, though none of it is wrong. Elsie makes comments from time to time about how much her editor wanted to tone down the ranting, but it was important to her, so she really needed to talk about it. Her opinion on how wasteful, slothful, vicious, and gluttonous humans are is awfully on the nose for the whole book, but once again, not wrong.
Elsie eventually hears about India, and how in that country cows are worshipped and never ever eaten, and that starts her obsession with getting out of the country; going to where she’ll never have to worry about being cut up for hamburgers. As word of her plans get out she picks up Jerry the pig, who wants to get to Israel because pigs are off the menu for Jews, and Tom the turkey, who wants to get to Turkey because they must worship turkeys if they named their country after them, right?
Here begins a ridiculous little adventure, of turkeys that use smartphones with their beaks, cows that can get through airport security if they wear big coats, and pigs who decide they really need a circumcision. No, really.
In a lot of ways it reads like a young-adult novel, or even a children’s book, but the occasional profanity sort of negates that. It’s just such a silly book, with Jerry talking in a Yiddish accent because he’s converting to Judaism, Tom talking in a German accent because they disguised him as a therapy animal and he thinks he’s Freud, and Elsie taking in a New York accent because she’s getting tough with a wolf they meet and tough equals New York accent. Oh, and poop jokes. Lots of poop jokes.
The overall message is sweet; it’s about accepting yourself and not trying to hold yourself above other people, but coexisting with others in this life for as long as you can, for however long you have. It’s about chasing dreams, or about not chasing dreams if you’re honestly content where you are. It’s about how maybe we shouldn’t kill animals for fun or go to war for religion or go into professions we hate. None of those messages are subtle in the least, but they’re not bad messages to have.
All in all, if you’re looking for serious literature that uses barnyard creatures for the message, Animal Farm is pretty good. Holy Cow is good if you’d like something silly with your messages of peace and coexistence, with yiddish curses delivered by a pig who’s friends with an airplane-obsessed turkey and a cow trying to be divine.