A Cash-grab Named Bob
By Admiral Fartmore
(book chosen by Beau Dashington)
I will start by saying that Bowen’s full recovery from his heroin addiction is admirable. I dunno if you’ve heard, but it is not an easy thing to do. He also seems like a fairly responsible pet owner. I respect him for that. I am glad he has found success.
But I have a hard time really having much respect for this book. It’s awkwardly-written, shallow, and far too long – even at 170 pages. Routine trips to the vet take up dozens of pages, as does Bowen’s constant speculation on “where Bob came from” or “what kind of life he had before we met” (which, by the way, all builds up to absolutely nothing. You never find out where Bob came from.) There is no real suspense, no challenges, and hardly any character growth or meaningful self-reflection. Bowen repeats himself a lot, mostly with mundane filler. If you were to cleave out about 80% of the book and have the remainder rewritten as a short story, this could probably be an interesting main piece in a magazine, but in its current form it just drags and drags and drags.
As for Bob himself, he’s a cat and cats are cute. I like cats, I’ve lived with literally dozens. I’m not some animal hater like Peartree. But I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about Bob. He’s very close with his owner, which is sweet, but it’s not like he went to space or something. But the love for this cat is crazy.
After reading this, I’m mostly frustrated with the publisher and co-author Garry Jenkins, who I’m willing to bet had most of the creative control over this project. The accounts of life on the streets are simplistic and censored, like a children’s version of Oliver Twist. Despite Bowen’s recovery from a heroin addiction ostensibly being one of the central story arcs, its use is hardly mentioned. The same goes for the methadone which he used while undergoing treatment. Bowen is a heavy smoker in real life, but the book doesn’t make one reference to his smoking. Only bad guys swear, and the words are actually starred out (are you f****** kidding me?) Bowen’s run-ins with the law are ambiguous and absolve his character of all guilt or wrongdoing. All in all, the whole thing just really feels like it’s pandering to an audience that wants a feel-good book with a cute cat in it.
What frustrates me most about this is how it seems to mirror one of the main challenges Bowen faced while living on the street: people were repulsed by his lifestyle, and most of the public preferred to pretend that he did not exist. It’s oddly fitting that in his account of those times, so much information is censored for the sake of making the story digestible for people that buy books at grocery stores. While professing to break down stigmas, the book helps reaffirm them by reminding us that we just shouldn’t talk about some things. It’s a window into a heroin addict’s life, sure, but it’s been tinted rose so that you don’t hurt your eyes.
But this book is a beloved best seller, and I guess I’m in the minority for disliking it. So in the interest of providing a fair and balanced report, I’ve decided to also lend a voice to some people who really enjoyed the book. Here are some quotes from 5-star Amazon reviews: