For his first book, David Duchovny is not telling behind-the-scenes stories of The X-Files or the sex scenes in Californication: He’s written a caper about a cow that goes on the lam.
Holy Cow (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; $24) is a fable for adults, full of puns and silly jokes. A turkey is jive. A pig peppers his speech with Yiddish like a grandpa in the Catskills. In fact, the story is set in upstate New York, where the three animal heroes, led by Elsie Bovary, decide to escape their farm to fly to countries where they’ll be safe from being eaten.
Duchovny spoke to us by phone from New York.
You’ve written a loopy fairy tale. What inspired you to make that choice?
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I wish I could tell you that I make choices in life, but I kind of fly by the seat of my pants. I had this idea a long time ago as an animated feature. That’s the business I find myself in, Hollywood, and I pitched it to a couple of places — they didn’t bite. And I didn’t think they would, because there’s some religion in it, some politics, there’s some discussion about whether or not keeping animals to eat them is a good thing or bad thing.
I wasn’t surprised when they didn’t want to make it, but I always had this idea — I thought, “If I was a cow, I’d try to get to India.” Last year, I woke up and I thought … “You’ve been saying you’re a writer your whole life, why don’t you … write something?” That’s how that all started.
In the book, Elsie’s editor gives her a hard time for being too political. Did you get that kind of feedback about the book?
Not at all. My editor was Jonathan Galassi at FSG, and he was nothing like that. The editor, in my mind, was the person I would have pitched the movie to, the powers that be that would tell me: “You can’t make an animated film about Muslims and Jews and not eating meat.” It’s possible that they were right. [Laughing.] I’m saying they’re right. I’ve been saying they’re right from the beginning.
How do you approach that idea, of being vegetarian or vegan, without alienating readers?
Well, I didn’t conceive of it as a polemic. I conceived of it as an entertaining tale. I didn’t worry so much about alienating anybody, because things happen in books that people like or they don’t like, and it’s part of the fiction.
Is it scary to do things that are so totally different from what you’re known for?
It’s scary in the sense of, you know, people are going to think I’m just dabbling or not serious or whatever. That doesn’t bother me. It’s not scary in the sense of if the book bombs, my kids are still going to be able to eat, because I still get to act. It’s not my day job, so there’s a certain kind of freedom and fearlessness that I get from that.
Are there any creative written projects that you left by the side of the road that that happened with?
That I talked out of existence? I’m sure there has been. Let’s say my best stuff I talked out of existence. What I might end up doing, because I’ve written a number of screenplays over the years for what always turns into kind of an independent film, which is a very difficult world to make movies in. I got to make one, and I hope to make more. I have these screenplays, but they’re also — they could be novels. … If I’m not so lazy, I may try and sit down and turn one of those screenplays into a novel.
Are they really bringing back X-Files and Twin Peaks?
Seems like it. I would bet on it if I were you. I think Twin Peaks is happening for sure. I hope my character comes back … And then X-Files — Fox made some kind of shadowy announcement last week. Certainly, something’s happening. Something’s brewing. It’s like the Eagles’ greatest hits tour … by me.
Los Angeles Times