Book review: Être the Cow »
Être the Cow was written by Sean Kenniff, whose name might be familiar to you, as he was a contestant on the first season of Survivor. According to his back-of-book bio, he is also a physician. Apparently he had some time post-layoff, which he spent “liv[ing] with the cows,” though this experience did not stop him from eating them.
The novella is odd. It’s narrated by Être, a bull, who is the only cow in the story who has a “real” name, which he apparently gave himself; he is the only cow who tries to communicate with other cows—and people—in English, though unsuccessfully, as no one can understand him. Also, sometimes there is singing, in French.
The whole thing is a tragedy, I guess, what with all the dying, but it’s written so oddly that it’s difficult to connect with any of the characters. Maybe it’s unfair to criticize Kenniff’s motivations for writing the book, but when it’s so painfully clearly a Book with a Message, then I feel like the author’s motivations are fair to explore. So: why did Kenniff write this book, if he still believes that eating meat is a fair and fine thing to do? If it is a parable, what lessons should the reader take from it? All I understood was, basically, “Special cows can sometimes have feelings too, but only special ones, and really those feelings are useless because they only lead to tragedy, so better to live your life like a regular, non-talking cow who doesn’t wish to be a human—sorry, a ‘Man’—and then you won’t know what you might have missed if you were anything other than a cow.”
Or, you know, something like that. Maybe this book wasn’t for me because I don’t go in for too much anthropomorphizing; maybe because I’m more educated about animal-cruelty issues that the readers the author is trying to reach. Maybe because it’s just not an especially well written book, and whatever message it is trying to send is totally garbled because Kenniff doesn’t seem to mean it. I don’t know. If you are interested, go for it. I have certainly read worse, in my life; but I have most definitely read better.