An offbeat adventure that reads something like Bill Willingham’s Fables directed by Ralph Bakshi.

HOLY COW

A MODERN-DAY DAIRY TALE

A conflicted cow, a Jewish pig and a debonair turkey seek acceptance and enlightenment during a journey across the Middle East. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before….                 

Long before he became the face of The X-Files’ Fox Mulder or Californication’s Hank Moody, Duchovny earned a master’s degree in English literature from Yale and was on his way to a Ph.D. As it turns out, his debut novel is a charming fable about dignity and tolerance, complete with anthropomorphized animals and replete with puns, double-entendres and sophisticated humor. The book is narrated by Elsie Bovary, a cow on a small farm in upstate New York  who has a clear knowledge of the kind of story she is telling. “I don’t know if you’ve read Animal Farm. It seems like that’s a book all human children have to read. Personally I prefer Charlotte’s Web, though spiders can be tricky—Harlot’s Web anybody? (And eight legs? Really? Two or four is the appropriate number of legs, everybody knows this. Maybe five, maybe. Eight seems desperate to me, or indecisive, indulgent even. You know?)” Upon learning how cows are slaughtered, Elsie plots her escape. To aid her efforts, she agrees to team up with Jerry—also known as Shalom—a Torah-reading pig who plans to use kosher dietary laws to his advantage in Jerusalem, and Tom Turkey, who wants to move to Turkey, naturally. After the obligatory training montage, the trio are off in their human disguises, traveling from Turkey to Israel to Palestine and finally Mumbai. Elsie has a very funny narrative voice, dropping bits of screenplay, suggestions for movie stars to cast (Jennifer Lawrence!), and clever but understated nods to pop culture, rock music and the value of faith. Between the book’s sly humor, gently humanist (animalist?) message and wry illustrations by Natalya Balnova, this is a pseudo–children's book that smart adults should greatly enjoy.

An offbeat adventure that reads something like Bill Willingham’s Fables directed by Ralph Bakshi.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-17207-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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THE SECRET HISTORY

The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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