At the age of twenty-five, I thought I had real problems. I’d just started a new second job and was still mastering the art of living paycheck to paycheck. I was driving a Buick almost as old as I was, for which, I think, I paid one hundred dollars to drive. Although, let’s be honest, the gas mileage was something to behold, and as gas prices leap back toward the four dollar mark again, it sure would beat the v-eight monster that I drive now. At least what I have now has a CD player that takes a few weeks before it absolutely destroys whatever album I spin endlessly to and from work, picking out only my favorite songs to take crater-like gouges from the disk.
Steven has real problems. Getting held over at work yet another night meant that I missed a favorite television show, it was enough to ruin the day. When Steven gets held over from work, people die. And I wish I could tell you that dying in the world of Cows was just as simple as that, but no. No one just keels over and ceases to be in Cows. No one just uses the bathroom, cleans up, and goes about their day in Cows. No one eats regular food, wipes their mouth, and reads the newspaper in Cows. No one, and I mean, no one exists in Cows without something spectacularly horrendous happening to them.
This book has everything you could ever want out of a bad acid trip from Quentin Tarantino and Charlie Kaufman’s love child, all of the vomit and bodily fluids, exploding bodies, rotting corpses, sodomy, home-endoscopies, beastiality, and of course profanity. A lot of profanity. A lot. But what else would you expect when the main character just wants to model his life after what he sees in the sitcoms on television? Hanging out with and trying to rule a clan of sewer dwelling talking cows was featured on an episode of The Cosby Show, right?
Normally, when someone’s writing is so focused on shocking its reader, it is meant to cover a lack of depth and talent. Stokoe commands scenes of utter horror so grandiose that you may even have to put the book down for a few minutes to compose yourself. However, he whispers his words into your ear with the voice of an angel drinking herbal tea laced with honey and promises of love and wealth. The poetry in his words is Stokoe’s secret weapon, driving you further into his world of isolation and despair. If you’re looking for a book that makes Last Days look like The Giving Tree, then Cows and then perhaps a sanitarium are right up your alley.