Sunday, September 19, 2010

SLIS 5420 - Module 4 - Going Bovine

Module 4 - Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Bray, Libba. Going Bovine. Delacorte Press, 2009 ISBN: 978-0-385-73397-7 

This book is an epic trip across America that is both funny, touching and surreal. Cameron has been diagnosed with Mad Cow Disease and while he is dying, he may be saving the world or having an amazing hallucination. A large cast of interesting characters flesh out this excellent, fun story. Winner of the 2010 Printz Award.

What I thought
Normally, I don't like stories that may or may not be in the narrator's head. However, this story is such an amazing trip, I didn't mind. In some ways, the story reminds me of a few other novels, such as Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and my favorite Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins. The surreal nature of the story is both fun and disturbing. I am of the opinion that the entire trip, the saving the world and everything takes place in Cameron's dying mind. However, that doesn't take away from the real-life feelings the book invokes. It is a book about celebrating life, being yourself and following dreams. The characters of Balder the Garden Gnome and Gonzo the little person are wonderful. They feel like real people that I wish I could meet.

Outside Reviews
"When sixteen-year-old Cameron was five, he jumped ship on the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disney World and nearly drowned. “The thing is, before they pulled me out, everything had seemed made of magic . . . But the minute I came to on the hard, glittery, spray-painted, fake snow. . . I realized it was all a big fake. The realest thing I’d ever experienced was that moment under the water when I almost died.” This sets the theme for the even wilder ride that follows, when Cameron’s erratic behavior leads to a diagnosis of  Creutzfeldt-Jakob (a.k.a. mad cow) disease. With the student body that used to ignore him throwing a save-Cameron pep rally and decorating the gym with paper cows, Cameron and his friend Gonzo, a hypochondriac dwarf, flee the hospital on a mission (as detailed by a punk-rock angel named Dulcie) to save the world from “dark energy”—or do they? Bray gleefully tosses a hallucinogenic mix of elements into the adventure—snow globes, fire demons, a talking yard gnome, a demon-fighting New Orleans jazz musician, and more—but their origins can all be found in Cameron’s mundane prediagnosis life. So is his trip “just a ride,” as his Mom once told him about “It’s a Small World”? Readers will have a great time trying to sort everything out and answer the question at the heart of it all: even if Cameron’s experiences are all a dream,  are they any less real?"

C. M., H. (2009). Going Bovine. Horn Book Magazine, 85(5), 553. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

"In Libba Bray's unconventional novel, winner of the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award, Cameron, the 16-year-old down-and-out protagonist, meanders through varied phantasmagoric experiences after being diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jacob ("mad cow") disease. Cam has given up trying to succeed at home, in school, or as one of the cool kids. Instead, he sinks further into disassociation from his world until he is visited by Dulcie (reminiscent of Quixote's Dulcinea), a possibly hallucinatory punk/angel, who convinces Cam there could be a cure, if he is willing to assume great risks in searching for it. And so begins Cam's bizarre quest to thwart evil, unravel the mystery of the disappearing Dr. X--who may hold the key to a cure, but might also be plotting to destroy the world--and beat his terminal diagnosis. Cam is accompanied on this dark roadtrip of an increasingly spongy mind by Dulcie, a hypochondriacal dwarf named Gonzo, and a resilient yard gnome who could possibly be the ancient Viking god, Balder. [Bray] ably narrates this psychedelic ride, with a deft touch of teenage angst and ennui. There is so much going on that listeners could easily lose the twisting thread in an instant of inattention. Filled with slang, four letter words, humor, pathos, satire, absurdities, sex, drugs, rock 'n roll, and the fight between good and evil, this is not a journey for the faint of heart."

Spencer, R. (2010). Going Bovine. School Library Journal, 56(4), 57. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

Using this book in the library
This book is very unusual and is most likely for older teens. It would be an excellent project to work through some of the mythology and physical science that is mentioned in the book. The science takes on mythic proportions in the terms of alternate universes and the Norse mythology may not be familiar to all readers. Mad Cow Disease is interesting as well, since it is not caused by a virus or any other organism. Instead, bad proteins, called prions, are to blame. These topics may be fun to explore in a book club that has members who enjoy learning new things.

For fun
A few subplots in this story involved garden gnomes. Cameron's father shows his son pictures of "liberated" gnomes taken on trips and photographed in front of landmarks. His father thinks this is clever and funny. One of the characters, Balder, is an enchanted yard gnome. There is a site called "Free the Gnomes." Libby is making a commentary on this practice. In France, 79 yard gnomes were discovered alongside a river bank. People are stealing property and using it to create dubious art.

No comments:

Post a Comment