Kim Weiss Publishing Services

To be or not to be — a cow, that is

January 27, 2010 at 11:30 am

“This is a story about a cow” is what’s printed on a blank page before chapter 1. “Or not” is on the page that follows.

It’s hard to talk about ETRE THE COW, a little book that’s coming out from HCI in April, but it’s harder not to talk about it.

So there, how’s that for putting some ying and yang into your day and making you scratch your head.


It’s written by Sean Kenniff, a physician who lives in Miami with the notable distinction of having been one of the first “castaways” on the Survivor series. Post-survivor, Kenniff’s been a tv journalist and radio host.

From his head comes this existential parable written in the voice of a self-aware but lonely cow named Etre.

“With night the cows  fold their legs and slump down in the grass to sleep like dogs.  I fight to not do the same and instead walk between the broads and the bulls, following fireflies through the darkness. For certain fireflies know nothing of fences or chewing grass or staying put. Fences don’t figure for fireflies. They know nothing of this pasture business. They are simple, but they are free. If I had wings, Farmer Creely and his boy would see I don’t belong here; I’d fly high above these cows and these fields and then I’d light my bottom.” (p. 24-25)

Etre speaks through the entire book and although he never finds understanding among the others who share his pasture, we feel for him and his powerlessness over his circumstances.

We are taken from life in the pasture to the inevitable place where cows are killed without mercy. Frankly, there were pages in the book that I had to skip so I wouldn’t be haunted throughout the day. If I hadn’t been on a primarily vegetarian diet for three decades, I would never have been able to put another piece of beef in my mouth after Etre.

It’s not about becoming meat-free. It’s about pushing limits and challenging destiny. It’s about different things for different readers. That’s the beauty of Etre the Cow.

The book is a mere 128 pages with a killer cover (no pun intended). The editor on the book says it’s the project she’s most proud of in her career.

I’m pretty sure we have a special novella here. One I think worthy of sharing before it’s on the bookstore shelves in April.

I’m willing to give away a few free copies to start an early buzz going. Won’t you join me?

For a free advanced reader’s copy of ETRE THE COW, send me your street address. You can send it to me at: All I ask in exchange are a few words about how you felt about the book.

Be my guest.

Etre the Cow

Comments (6)


    As a neurologist Dr. Sean Kenniff has a unique understanding of the human brain. As an author he shows his unique understanding of the human condition. This book tapped into a well of emotion I thought had run dry years ago. Following the journey of this innocent cow I remembered my own innocence and those precise and powerful moments of revelation. But that was my experience, another reader may hear a completely different translation. And that is the true beauty and genius of this book.
    Although it is meticulously written the neurologist’s words flow easily into your mind – triggering your memory and imagination.

    Comment by Chris SteinJanuary 28, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

    Parable. Sattire. Existential manifesto. Etre, is a lot of things.

    At the risk of sounding dramatic, I might even offer that—-as the title suggest—-it’s everything it means “to be.” What DOES it mean?

    We all start out as Etres, innocent and curious. And this little book is about the big thing that makes us turn: knowingness; coming to the awareness of what it means to be alive. Too often it means failure, insecurity, and impotence. But then there is beauty. In a child’s soft singing. In the way a tiny firefly defies the boundless dark. Beauty even in the blameless brutality of nature, with its own system of economics where “cows feed on the grass and uproot the worms [which] the egrets feed on…”

    This existence, between the greener grasses Etre longs for and the slaughterhouse he wants to escape, is OUR existence, and it’s what makes “Etre the Cow” hard to define or fence in.

    What is not in question is the beauty of the writing, elegant in its simplicity. Think the themes of Keats, Whitman, Camus, written in the style of Hemingway. I know, I know—-it’s “a book about a cow.” But Kenniff makes Etre real and his struggle meaningful, not so much in spite of the cowtagonist, as because of him.

    In the same way that humor makes talking about difficult things a bit more palatable, seeing the world through the eyes of a cow allows the reader to see life as it is, without judgment or sentimentality—-at times harsh, at times lovely, always sublime.

    Does Etre escape the cow pasture? His destiny? Can any of us? Don’t be fooled by Etre’s humble voice or the book’s modest size. Both are asking bold and worthy questions.

    Comment by Esther MartinezJanuary 28, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

    The beauty of Être is its simplicity and its complexity. A cow develops awareness, which ironically could also be called “humanity.” The greater possibilities of life are now apparent to him, with most hopelessly out of reach – thanks to our own limited and stagnant awareness. How much do we really know about what any other being thinks or is capable of? It is humankind’s lack of awareness that imprisons Être in a world where he is only valued as a stud and a steak.

    Another reader might take away a completely different message, and that’s the power of this parable. Être reminds me that our own individual experience (and awareness) enables each of us to have a unique interpretation of the same events. Which one is best? Is there a “right” one? Whoever’s at the top of the food chain defines reality, and Être suggests to me that we ought to give that a little more thought while we’re there.

    Comment by Steve YavnerJanuary 28, 2010 @ 11:14 am

    You’re comment about being hard to talk about – and harder to talk about – is right on point. I remember trying to explain what it meant to me, what it didn’t mean to me, but instead I found myself searching for the right word.

    The book is compelling precisely because I wasn’t able to fall into some easy bag of generic expressions or facile descriptions. In some ways it seems that the narrative actually brings the reader into contact with the same dilemma faced by the cow – an inexplicable existential desire coupled with the frustration of limited self-expression.

    Comment by Jeremy BarrJanuary 27, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

    It was a very touching and thought provoking book. I am still thinking abou it. I read the book in one sitting. Once you start reading about Etre, you will not want to stop.
    Jose Mendez

    Comment by Jose I. MendezJanuary 27, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

    This is such a great idea!

    I mean life and a self realization through the eyes of a cow.

    How many of us go through life, at the work place like an expendible slab of beef only to find ourselves chewed up and spit out at the end.

    Marvelous concept!

    Comment by Art BarronJanuary 27, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

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