Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Book of the Dun Cow

The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
It's Thursday, and you're still reading book reviews!  Don't worry, we'll go have a Chicago hot dog or something soon.

This book is one of husband’s reads, so today's review is a secondhand account.   I'm itching to read it myself but until then, it’ll be a “he told me and I told you” kind of arrangement.  

The Book of the Dun Cow is a fantasy novel.  It's for children, but it's for adults.  Think C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia.  But instead of an oversized wardrobe and a passel of English children, the story takes place on a farm where all the characters are farm animals.  Similarly to C.S. Lewis and Tolkien's writings, a great story of good and evil splays across the pages while you're meeting simple characters like a rooster, a depressed dog, and a brown-ish gray cow.

Many people want to make Wangerin's farm tale a monument to symbolism and moral allegory.  What hooks me about this book is the author’s assertion that The Book of the Dun Cow is no such thing.  He writes, "What The Book of the Dun Cow is not—nor was ever intended to be—is an allegory.  Allegories ask an intellectual analysis: 'This means that, this detail in the story is equivalent to that fact, that doctrine, that idea outside the story.'  The Book of the Dun Cow invites experience. Allegories are reductive of meanings; they bear a riddling quality; they demand the question, 'What does this mean?' But a good novel is first of all an event."  Preach.

The Book of the Dun Cow made the review list partly because I've never seen a book so emotionally impact Neal.  When I sat down to type out this review, I asked him why this was, and he summarized the book's message this way, "Evil must be engaged; it's painful, tiring, and exhausting, but evil left un-addressed allows evil to continue to expand its borders."  Silence.  This post is now ending.  I have to read this book.

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To order The Book of the Dun Cow, click here.

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