David Duchovny, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 206 pages
Possibly the silliest book I have ever read, “Holy Cow,” the debut novel of actor David Duchovny, drove me to Wikipedia to make sure he has children. Thank God, he does. I comforted myself by picturing him spinning this yarn to entertain them, doing the voices of super-hip cow Elsie Bovary; Shalom, the Yiddish-speaking pig; and Tom the pimp-rollin’ therapy turkey, who by the end of the story has developed a Viennese accent. I could imagine how the little ones loved it at the end when the globe-trotting animals conclude their quest to avoid becoming dinner. Almost by accident, they also bring peace to the Middle East and are nominated for the Nobel Prize.
Many parents make up a story like this. I know I did. Over time, we refine these stories, expand them, polish the jokes and beef up the metaphorical resonance. Some of us probably think, I oughta publish it! But because we’re not David Duchovny, we don’t. They say he is working on his second novel. I suggest human beings.
The Man Who Couldn’t Stop
David Adam, Sarah Crichton, 336 pages
In his conversational book, science writer David Adam explains how his own struggle – his irrational and unrelenting obsession with contracting HIV/AIDS – developed into obsessive-compulsive disorder. He explains how the mental flotsam of the day can balloon into epic proportions that entirely dominate his life. He is not referring to common preoccupations or particular tics – rechecking of locks, organizing pencils just so – that we all exhibit in some form, but rather those unshakable feelings and ideas that lead to misery and mental illness.
As a writer and editor at Nature, Adam knew his fear was irrational. He used his own experience as way to explain OCD, a disorder that scientists say affects up to 3 percent of us. Adam explains clearly how the disorder and treatments evolved and how the American Psychiatric Association had classified OCD as an anxiety disorder but now regards it as an impulse disorder.
To communicate what Adam calls a “severe, clinical obsession, a true monopoly of thought,” Adam asks readers to consider a personal computer and the various windows that can run concurrently. The subconscious can toggle between windows, making them smaller or larger, or close them entirely. But OCD is “a large window that cannot be made to shrink, move or close.” Adam explains how he readjusted the windows of his own mind, and how obsession can be reduced to reasonable proportions.