his first book, David Duchovny is not telling
behind-the-scenes stories of "The X-Files" or
opening up about the sex scenes in "Californication":
Heís written a caper about a cow that goes on the lam.
Cow" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 224 pages, $24) is
a fable for adults, full of puns and silly jokes. A
turkey is jive. A pig peppers his speech with Yiddish
like a grandpa in the Catskills. In fact, the story is
set in upstate New York, where the three animal heroes,
led by Elsie Bovary, decide to escape their farm to fly
to countries where theyíll be safe from being eaten.
spoke to us by phone from New York.
You interviewed Craig Ferguson onstage about his novel
in 2006. Was writing a novel yourself on your mind back
Itís been on my mind forever. If youíd asked me when
I was 20, "What are you?" I would say, "Iím
a writer," even though I had nothing to show for
it. Itís always been my self-identification. My father
was a writer; he published his first novel when he was
73, so I guess Iíve beaten him by a little bit.
Youíve written a loopy fairy tale. I wonder what
inspired you to make that choice.
I wish I could tell you that I make choices in life, but
I kind of fly by the seat of my pants. I had this idea a
long time ago as an animated feature. Thatís the
business I find myself in, Hollywood, and I pitched it
to a couple of places ó they didnít bite. And I didnít
think they would, because thereís some religion in it,
some politics, thereís some discussion about whether
or not keeping animals to eat them is a good thing or
wasnít surprised when they didnít want to make it,
but I always had this idea ó I thought, "If I was
a cow, Iíd try to get to India." Last year, I
woke up and I thought... "Youíve been saying youíre
a writer your whole life, why donít you ... write
something?" Thatís how that all started.
In the book, Elsie engages with her editor, whoís
giving her a hard time for being too political. Did you
get that kind of feedback about the book?
Not at all. My editor was Jonathan Galassi at FSG, and
he was nothing like that. The editor, in my mind, was
the person I would have pitched the movie to, the powers
that be that would tell me: "You canít make an
animated film about Muslims and Jews and not eating
possible that they were right. [Laughing.] Iím saying
theyíre right. Iíve been saying theyíre right from
Philosopher Peter Singer basically has the same ideas as
Elsie, that you shouldnít eat animals, but he can be
divisive. How do you approach that idea, of being
vegetarian or vegan, without alienating readers?
Well, I didnít conceive of it as a polemic, I
conceived of it as an entertaining tale. I didnít
worry so much about alienating anybody, because things
happen in books that people like or they donít like,
and itís part of the fiction.
I find very interesting; he tries to talk about animals
as if they have rights, which is fascinating, beings
with actual civil rights. But I think actually, if you
were to boil down Elsieís philosophy, I donít think
Peterís going to be on my side either, because Iíve
got Elsie saying, "Nature is obviously a very
competitive, survival-of-the-fittest place, and a lion
is not going to eat tofu, ever, heís not supposed to,
thatís the way of the world."
there are other questions to ask, especially for humans,
who have a choice of what they eat. And Iím also
interested in the taxing of the environment in terms of
our meat-eating lifestyle. The sheer number of cattle,
pigs and chickens that ó through no fault of their
own, theyíre kept by us humans ó are polluting the
environment in ways that are shocking.
Elsieís discovery of the meat industry is really kind
of scary. Does that parallel your experience?
For me, it was fun to play with the cowís
consciousness: She knows about Homer but doesnít know
sheís going to be eaten. Thatís kind of fun, huge
ignorance on the one hand and a liberal arts education
on the other.
Which does maybe characterize liberal arts education.
Tell me about your education: Princeton and Yale? Did
you really write a thesis on [Samuel] Beckett?
I wrote my Princeton senior thesis ... on Beckettís
novels. That knowledge has stood me well in Hollywood.
Then I went to Yale. I was in the PhD English literature
program, but I didnít write my dissertation, so I donít
have a PhD.
That means youíre ABD!
Thank you for knowing that terminology! I hate
"ABD" because everybody else has a Latin kind
of abbreviation. PhD, doctor of letters, you know?
Doctor of philosophy. ABD is all but dissertation, itís
like slang. Itís not cool enough....
possible there are some professors at Yale walking
around thinking, "I wonder when Duchovnyís going
to hand in that paper? Havenít seen him around."
Are you also releasing a record this year?
I am, soon.
Are you going for the EGOT? You know: an Emmy, a Grammy,
an Oscar and a Tony?
Maybe Iím just going for an EGO, I donít know.... As
I said to you, I have always defied myself as a writer,
even before I would say actor. In fact, whenever I see
my name and it says "actor" after it, I always
think: "Thatís not true, Iím a writer."
And I never played music and never wrote music until
four years ago. Itís one of the most amazing,
serendipitous turns of events in my life.
Is it scary to do two different things in one year that
are so totally different from what youíre known for,
Itís scary in the sense of, you know, people are going
to think Iím just dabbling or not serious or whatever.
That doesnít bother me. Itís not scary in the sense
of if the book bombs and the album bombs, my kids are
still going to be able to eat, because I still get to
act. Itís not my day job, so thereís a certain kind
of freedom and fearlessness that I get from that.
Do you pay attention to social media?
I am on the Twitter and the Instagram. I am told that Iím
supposed to be on it and that I should be on it. Itís
not my world. I have a 15-year-old daughter ó I watch
her, itís completely natural. Itís exactly what she
does, understands, speaks it fluently. I donít. Itís
foreign to me. I donít get it, I donít feel it. But
I recognize that itís there and Iím happy to try,
and hope that I donít ruin my life doing it. Thereís
so many people, and I like to be funny. I tend to
approach things in that way. And itís hard to be funny
in the written form without half the people getting it
wrong. Then youíre on the apology tour. I donít want
to go on that.
"Holy Cow" is funny in the written form. Did
you share what you were writing with anyone when it was
Thereís a certain kind of laughing that goes on inside
your head, I guess, when you read a book. Sometimes you
laugh out loud when you read a book, very occasionally,
but thereís certainly that sensation of humor when youíre
reading. I think thatís where my particular
sensibility heads towards is off into funny stuff.
told Tea [Leoni, his ex-wife] that Iím actually trying
to write that story up ó Ďcause I had this idea
long, long ago ó as a novel. I find the more I talk
about something, the less I do it.
Are there any creative written projects that you left by
the side of the road that that happened with?
That I talked out of existence? Iím sure there has
been. Letís say my best stuff I talked out of
I might end up doing, because Iíve written a number of
screenplays over the years for what always turns into
kind of an independent film, which is a very difficult
world to make movies in. I got to make one, and I hope
to make more. I have these screenplays, but theyíre
also ó they could be novels.... If Iím not so lazy,
I may try and sit down and turn one of those screenplays
into a novel.
I have to ask: Are they really bringing back
"X-Files" and "Twin Peaks"? Can it
possibly be true?
Seems like it. I would bet on it if I were you. I think
"Twin Peaks" is happening for sure. I hope my
character comes back, I think she does. And then
"X-Files" ó Fox made some kind of shadowy
announcement last week. Certainly, somethingís
happening. Somethingís brewing. Itís like the Eaglesí
greatest hits tour ... by me.