HOLY COW, by David Duchovny. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 206 pp., $24.
Possibly the silliest book I have ever read, "Holy Cow," the debut novel of actor David Duchovny, drove me to Wikipedia to make sure the author has children. Thank God, he does. I comforted myself by picturing him spinning this yarn to entertain them, doing the voices of super-hip cow Elsie Bovary; Shalom, the Yiddish-speaking pig; and Tom the pimp-rollin' therapy turkey, who by the end of the story has developed a Viennese accent. I could imagine how cute and funny it was for the little ones when Daddy said things like "Boo-ya," "whatevs," "sista from another mista," and "schlimazel"; how they loved it at the end when the globe-trotting animals successfully conclude their quest to avoid becoming dinner. Almost by accident, they also bring peace to the Middle East and are nominated for the Nobel Prize.
Many parents make up a story like this: I know I did. Mine was originally designed to comfort a child who lost his helium balloon in a park. Over time, we refine these stories, expand them, polish the jokes and beef up the metaphorical resonance. Some of us probably think, Hey, my story is great, I oughta publish it! But because we're not David Duchovny, we don't.
Now that the young Duchovnys are 15 and 12 (at least according to Wikipedia) and have likely outgrown the story, now that "The X-Files" is over and "Californication" too, and the debut rock album has been released, it seems the multifarious Duchovny has some time on his hands, and has decided to put his degrees in English from Princeton and Yale to use. Inspired by George Orwell and E.B. White, as he explained in an interview with Rolling Stone, he believes "Holy Cow" is a story for everyone: "It's a kids' book and an adult book," he said. "It's a fable, like 'Animal Farm' or 'Charlotte's Web'; an allegorical story using animals for people."
As Elsie the slang-spoutin' cow might say, "Ya think?"
Elsie, who is the putative author of "Holy Cow," tends to ignore her editor, who chimes in from time to with suggestions, often designed to increase the likelihood of a film adaptation. For example, the editor advocates "sex, curses, and maybe some potty humor" along with references to Depeche Mode to cater to the older segment of the audience. Later, she counsels, "Sugar, there's no way Hollywood will make a movie about a Jewish pig in Israel being stoned by Muslims. Too many hot buttons. Too niche. Too indie. We have to think tent pole. Not Sony Classics. Can't the pig go to New York, you know, and meet a girl? Kind of like 'Babe' meets 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding?' "
They say Duchovny is working on his second novel. I suggest human beings.