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Richie's Picks: GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray,  Delacorte, September 2009, 
496p., ISBN: 978-0-385-73397-7  

"...Remember then, that summer birds with wings of fire  flaying
Come to witness springs new hope, born of leaves decaying.
And as  new life will come from death,
Love will come at leisure.
Love of love,  love of life 
and giving without measure,
Gives in return a wondrous  yearn 
For promise almost seen..."
--Graeme Edge -- "The Dream"

"'You people slay me,' she  says with a laugh, and there's an edge to it.  
'Always worrying, "What will  happen?  What's next?"  Always everywhere but 
where you actually  are.  You just don't get it.'
"'Get what?'
"'Here.  Now.  This.'  She gestures wide,  turns around.  'This is it, 
cowboy.  The whole ride.  Pay  attention.'"
I am not going to pretend that I understand  everything I read over the 
past four days and five hundred pages of GOING  BOVINE by Libba Bray.  No way.  
But from the first page of this  profoundly funny and heartbreaking tale of 
a teenager on a road trip to  save the world and his own life, I found 
myself quite  content -- and extremely grateful for the opportunity -- to just  
buckle myself in and enjoy the wild ride. 
"As a kid, I imagined lots  of different scenarios for my life.  I would be 
an astronaut.  Maybe a  cartoonist.  A famous explorer or rock star.  Never 
once did I see  myself standing under the window of a house belonging to 
some druggie named  Carbine, waiting for his yard gnome to steal his stash so 
I could get a cab back  to a cheap motel where my friend, a neurotic, 
death-obsessed dwarf, was waiting  for me so we could get on the road to an 
undefined place and a mysterious Dr. X,  who would cure me of mad cow disease and 
stop a band of dark energy from  destroying the universe."
Sixteen year-old high school student Cameron Smith is a  float-along stoner 
living in the shadow of his smart and popular twin  sister.  He experiences 
a series of strange, psychotic-like episodes  that have him wondering 
whether he's been toking on some  seriously toxic weed.  Instead, it turns out 
that he has  contracted Creutzzfeldt Jacob varient Bovine Spongiform 
Encephalpathy --  the human form of Mad Cow Disease -- and that his brain is in the 
process  of disintegrating.  Meanwhile, he has been finding messages left on  
feathers that are too big to be from any bird.  It turns out they are  
coming from a punk rock angel with a sweet tooth named  Dulcie.  It is Dulcie 
who sends the ailing Cameron on the quest that  will take him and Gonzo from 
Texas to Florida.
-- teeshirt sold by the peace and justice  organization, Syracuse Cultural 

GOING BOVINE is the second book I've read in the past  month that alludes 
to Don Quixote.  Unfortunately, it was the  Spanish language version of 
Cervantes that I read thirty-seven years  ago (as part of a high school total 
immersion program), and I  didn't grasp much of the reading or discussions 
(also  in Spanish) even back then when I actually had substantive  memories of 
the experience.  On top of that, I studied Earth  science rather than physics 
as a senior, so I also  don't really grasp much of the time and space stuff 
going on  here.
But that just doesn't affect my enjoyment of Cameron's  story.  What I do 
know is that when all those multitudes  of kids who have loved Percy Jackson 
get into high school, a whole lot  of them are going to be absolutely blown 
away by this complex,  heart-tugging coming...err..dying of age journey.  
Furthermore, with the manner in which Bray deftly  shreds the insipid genre 
of reality television and other  contemporary  cultural targets, it also 
reminds me of the slashing social  commentary of FEED.  Then there is plenty 
on the ride  that has me recalling the anarchic zaniness and chaos of the  
Firesign Theater.  And I have a small personal connection with  Cameron's 
life-altering childhood experience at Disney World, being that at  the New York 
World's Fair in 1964, I got to go on the original It's A  Small World After 
All ride (after learning and singing the song at  school).  
Nor will I ever be able to look at a lawn gnome the same  way again after 
getting to know and love the one that Cameron and  Gonzo rescue along the 
way.  That gnome turns out to actually be  the Viking god Balder, who had been 
cursed by the trickster Loki and  trapped for ages -- as the butt of pranks 
and target of male dogs  -- until Cameron comes along.
"Five minutes after I've helped him in, the gnome appears at  the window 
again, a big wad of crumpled bills in his hand.  'I'm afraid I'm  a bit rusty 
yet.  Grab my legs!' he whispered.  I pull him back to  safety and he 
presses the bills into my hand.  'I took the whole of it,  three thousand dollars, 
just to be sure.'
"'Whoa.'  I can't stop staring at all that  green.
"'Quickly,' Balder admonishes.
"I shove the bills deep into my pockets.  'I feel kind of  bad taking this.'
"'Don't,' the gnome says.  He wobbles on shaky legs  toward the yard.  'His 
wealth is ill-gotten.  And once he dressed me  as a "Hootchie Mama" and 
posted Internet pictures on a fetish site called  Naughty Gnomes.  I cannot 
adequately convey the trauma of  it.'"
"Now you know that you are real..."
-- Mike Pinder
GOING BOVINE is one heck of a long, strange trip that I  am so happy I 
undertook.  There is just so much here about love  and life and what is real; I 
look forward to going back for a reread; it  would be great fun to have 
someone with whom to share the  experience.     

Richie  Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com_ ( 
Moderator  _ 
_ ( 

FTC  NOTICE: Richie receives free books from lots of publishers who hope he 
 will Pick their books.  You can figure that any review was written  after 
reading and dog-earring a free copy received.  Richie retains these  review 
copies for his rereading pleasure and for use in his  booktalks at schools 
and  libraries.

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