The Bear Went Over the Mountain - William Kotzwinkle

This book was on a "Winter Blues" list of funny books to read, and I just got around to reading it. Robyn had checked it out from the library but hadn't started it yet, and when I finished Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell I needed something else to read. I thought I had never heard of William Kotzwinkle, but he's also the author of E.T.: the Extraterrestrial and, more recently, Walter the Farting Dog.

The plot of this book is fairly simple: a bear, looking for food, discovers a briefcase containing the manuscript of Destiny and Desire, a novel written by Arthur Bramhall, an English professor on sabbatical. He reads it over, decides it seems like a decent novel and takes it to a publisher, and takes the world by storm. Suddenly everyone wants Hal Jam, this manly yet sensitive man who seems utterly unaffected by celebrity. It's the sort of book where a bear can put on a suit and tie and speak a little English, and nobody recognizes that he's not a real person. And, being a bear, he's prone to misunderstanding what people are saying (generally he's thinking about food), and his terse cryptic statements are interpreted by others to mean pretty much whatever they want.

Meanwhile, Bramhall, depressed and demoralized by the loss of his novel, takes to sleeping in an abandoned cave ...

It's a very silly book and a fast read. Since I've already read two other books this year about the publishing industry (Happiness and Mike Nelson's Death Rat, so some of this book wasn't as fresh as it might have been otherwise. Most of the characters are pretty flimsy stereotypes, but the bear is a fun character. One thing I noticed was that most of the characters have unusual last names (much like Kotzwinkle himself, I suppose)—I don't think I've met a single person with any of the last names in the book, though a number of them sound like they could be real names.

Something short and funny for a dreary day, but not life-changing or particularly moving.

Fed to jonathan's brain | November 03, 2005 | Comments (0)


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