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Bear v. Shark
     

Bear v. Shark

4.0 2
by Chris Bachelder
 

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Given a relatively level playing field — i.e., water deep enough so that a shark could maneuver proficiently but shallow enough so that a bear could stand and operate with its characteristic dexterity — who would win in a fight between a bear and a shark?
In this fiercely funny, razor-sharp satire of our media-saturated culture, the sovereign

Overview

Given a relatively level playing field — i.e., water deep enough so that a shark could maneuver proficiently but shallow enough so that a bear could stand and operate with its characteristic dexterity — who would win in a fight between a bear and a shark?
In this fiercely funny, razor-sharp satire of our media-saturated culture, the sovereign nation of Las Vegas is host to Bear v. Shark II. After a disappointing loss in the first computer-generated match-up, the bear is out for blood. With an essay entitled "Bear v. Shark: A Reason to Live," young Curtis Norman wins a national contest and four tickets to the sold-out event. As the Normans head cross-country in their SUV, they encounter a dizzying barrage of voices weighing in on the upcoming spectacle — everyone from the Freudians, theologians, pundits, and self-published authors on the radio to the bear and shark fanatics, cultists, and resisters at pit stops along the way. Overwhelmed by factoids and ten-second debates, Mr. Norman grows ambivalent about the impending event and the family with whom he can't seem to connect. Still, the Normans push on to Vegas, toward an apocalyptic, surprisingly emotional ending.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The New York Times Book Review A roundhouse swing at pop culture and its slavish devotion to spectacle.

Mark Rozzo Los Angeles Times Bedazzling and bewildering...as jarring and addictive as cruising through a hundred channels of cable with the remote on autopilot.

Carmela Ciuraru Newsday Bachelder's mind is...imaginative, playful, and relentlessly agile.

Panio Gianopoulos The Hartford Courant Bear v. Shark is great fun, and heralds the arrival of a gifted satirist, that nearly extinct breed of American writer.

Publishers Weekly
Reading like Don DeLillo on acid, Bachelder's brilliant, bizarre debut is a futuristic one-joke novel about a whimsical confrontation between two unlikely predators. The premise is simple: "Bear v. Shark" is a monster pay-per-view event staged in Las Vegas in which a bear and a shark fight it out in a tank of water deep enough for the shark to maneuver efficiently, but shallow enough to give the bear an even chance to hold its own. Most of the novel consists of Bachelder examining the event via an acidic, over-the-top running commentary and skewering American culture and the consumer-driven media overload that dominates modern life. The plot, such as it is, covers the cross-country journey of the Normans, a numbed-out, statistically average family who acquire tickets to the show when one of the two sons wins a promotional essay contest about the significance of the event. The story line has some mildly entertaining moments like Bachelder's depiction of Mr. Norman's growing existential ennui as he rounds the bend into a midlife dominated by the advertising-driven acquisition of contemporary gadgets and possessions. What makes the novel work, though, is the author's thought-provoking commentary, alternately hysterical, penetrating and weird, as he discusses weather channels, breakfast cereals, ESP TV and some of the other flotsam and jetsam that appears over the airwaves. Bachelder paints himself into a corner with an anticlimactic ending that hinges on the outcome of the battle, and the paper-thin plot doesn't hold up. But there's plenty of meat in the satiric humor and over-the-top commentary, making this a wildly entertaining cultural roller-coaster ride. Agent, Lisa Bankoff. (Nov.)Forecast: Reviewers will relish this novel, and if they do a good job getting a buzz started, it should do reasonably well, though a flashier jacket might have helped sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Satire about a culture so hooked on television and the Internet that two computer-generated animals become a national obsession. Suppose a bear and a shark were pitted against each other in a tank of water just full enough so that the shark could swim but the bear wouldn't drown. Which one would win? Well, the answer is to be found out in a staged fight between a virtual bear and a virtual shark in-where else?-Las Vegas. The main character of Bachelder's debut, a Homer-Simpson-like Mr. Norman, is driving his wife and two children across the country for ringside seats. The reader, going along for the ride, experiences the media frenzy surrounding the fake scenario and also Mr. Norman's occasional philosophic questioning of it. Norman, who feels empty and lonely, sometimes wonders whether he shouldn't connect more with his wife and children than he does with the thousands of TV screens and other entertainment distractions that surround him. Approaches by anti-media rebels who plan to blow up the Bear v. Shark stadium serve to heighten his discontent. "Things could be different," they keep telling him. But Norman is lulled back into brainwashed compliance by a talking neck pillow that whispers into his ear like a kind of electronic antidepressant designed to make him conform. Will he sell his family's soul and drive all the way to Vegas for this brainless entertainment, or will he see the light? That's the driving-pun intended-question behind Bachelder's admittedly weakly plotted tale. But the author uses his enjoyably silly scenario as a springboard to parody spectacles of the kind our entertainment-engorged culture has become enthralled by-Survivor, Temptation Island, Monica and Chandra.With its short vignettes, amusing use of language, cartoonish people, science-fiction bent, and its cynicism, the whole is like a slightly less developed preincarnation of Kurt Vonnegut. A quirky first novel, fun especially for wordplay fans.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743219471
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
10/29/2002
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
1,345,340
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Parlor Game

So it's kind of like a parlor game, then? In essence?

I guess so.

Well that sounds fun. Bear against Shark.

It's Bear v. Shark. What's a parlor?

Oh...You know, a parlor. A parlour.

...?

Um, like a salon.

What?

A lounge, essentially.

A lounge game?

Well, you know, it's like where you play it.

What's a parlor?

Like a living room. Technically.

Parlor?

Yes.

In a building?

In a home.

How big a TV you put in there?

Copyright © 2001 by Chris Bachelder

Meet the Author

Chris Bachelder received his MFA from the University of Florida in 2002 and is currently a visiting writer at New Mexico State University. Bear v. Shark is his first novel.

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Bear v. Shark 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very funny book, becomes more accurate every day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a short book and well worth the read, that is if you can stand a seemingly random jumping plot. It keeps you fascinated although it runs slow and leaves you dry near the end.