The Bear Comes Home

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Overview

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction: "A hilarious, richly imagined bear's eye view of love, music, alienation, manhood and humanity . . . that recalls Pynchon at his most controlled."—Publishers Weekly
The hero of this sensational first novel is an alto-sax virtuoso trying to evolve a personal style out of Coltrane and Rollins. He also happens to be a walking, talking, Blake- and Shakespeare-quoting bear whose musical, spiritual, and romantic adventures add up to ...

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The Bear Comes Home: A Novel

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Overview

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction: "A hilarious, richly imagined bear's eye view of love, music, alienation, manhood and humanity . . . that recalls Pynchon at his most controlled."—Publishers Weekly
The hero of this sensational first novel is an alto-sax virtuoso trying to evolve a personal style out of Coltrane and Rollins. He also happens to be a walking, talking, Blake- and Shakespeare-quoting bear whose musical, spiritual, and romantic adventures add up to perhaps the best novel, ursine or human, ever written about jazz. "Poignant and touching moments combine with hilarious descriptions of the bear's struggle in a story that anyone — whether familiar with jazz or not — will find compelling and entertaining."—David Amram, Los Angeles Times Book Review "Zabor's knack for detail makes the absurd premise believable . . . and neatly turns the weighty subject — the painful and ungainly growth of an artist — into a comic gem."—The New Yorker "In fluent, witty prose Zabor conveys with remarkable vividness the texture of group improvisation. . . . It swings."—A. O. Scott, New York Newsday "Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. Get the Bear."—David Nicholson, Washington Post "Zabor . . . conveys the mingled joy and terror of musical improvisation. He also displays a mean wit."—New York Times Book Review One of the Los Angeles Times Book Review's 100 best books of 1997 Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Paddington, Pooh, Kipling's Baloo — Rafi Zabor's contemplative, angst-ridden, alto-blowing Kodiak is the latest to join this distinguished company of loquacious ursines. But unlike his literary fore-bears, T. Bear (That's The, not Teddy, Bear) has 'always rejected the cutesy-poo.' Able to quote Shakespeare, Blake, and Milne with tragicomic effect, adept in the mysteries of Tantric Buddhism and the harmonic language of Coltrane and Parker, Bear is, '...objectively speaking, one heavy bear.

We first meet Bear and his human partner, Jones, busking in the streets of Manhattan to earn enough for such essentials as rent and the odd salmon. Raised from cubhood by Jones (who won him in a poker game), Bear is the scion of 20 generations of talking circus bears — a genetic marvel possessing opposable thumbs as well as vocal cords. But after a long and often curious association with his hipster companion, Bear is burnt out, physically and spiritually. Deciding that it is high time to quit the day job and pursue his artistic aspirations, he throws on a pair of baggy pants, a hat, and a raincoat, grabs his horn, and heads for a jam session at a nearby club. Jones tags along in case of trouble, reminding him, 'Just because you're round and brown...don't mean everyone's gonna take you for Arthur Blythe.

Jones has good reason to be worried. Bear's initial outing is a roaring success, inspiring awe and not a little bit of professional jealousy. Perhaps tipped off by the musician's union, or the ASPCA, Bear's next performance ends in a full-scale raid by the police. Bear isdarted,tranked, and tanked in a cell until his case is forgotten due to administrative error. There he languishes, arguing the weighty existential questions of philosophy with the jailhouse psychiatrist, until a sympathetic cop helps his friends stage an elaborate ruse to spring him.

While Bear was wrestling with his demons courtesy of New York City's finest (Zabor has a few unresolved issues with the boys in blue), a recording of his last performance has been released under the title, 'Blues in Ursa Minor.' Suddenly Bear is in demand, and with recording contract and a healthy advance in the bank, all agree that he will be safer out of the city. With longtime inamorata, Iris Tremoureux, he makes the trek upstate to Woodstock (not far from Bearsville, he notes), where he can work on his next album, rehearse his band, and repair his wounded psyche in peace. Zabor's lucid riff on the band's interaction is brilliant: The mental process of improvisation and the dynamic interplay between musicians – the give and take, push and shove that feeds the music — might easily have been reduced to atonal gibberish in lesser hands, but time and again, Zabor finds inspired expression for his subject. Bear's constant inner commentary on his music is nothing less than the distilled essence of musical performance. And yet always he pushes himself harder, questioning and refining his craft: 'he heard the absences and the unworked areas, the dead transitions, the insufficiently attended lifeless notes an the wholesale acres of unfinished business — heard it every set, every night....' Throughout Zabor's literary jam session, a host of real life jazz greats — Ornette Coleman, Billy Hart, Lester Bowie, Charlie Hayden — make guest appearances and offer insight as they guide Bear along his path toward quadripedal jazz enlightenment.

Largely due to his passionate and, yes, anatomically correct (right down to the mechanics of the ursine heteroptic baculum) interspecies love affair with Iris, Bear recovers the confidence lost during his incarceration, and more. Jones, who now works for Bear's record company (after much soul-searching of his own, he has decided that gainful employment does have its merits), comes through with a hastily booked tour of out-of-the-way venues, complete with a roadworthy bus and ex-wiseguy driver. Zabor's devastating sense of humor, ever present in the constant banter between Bear and Jones, comes to the fore as the band shares raunchy road stories — capped by the keyboardist's account of touring America on the same bill with Tiny Tim, Pinky Lee, John Carradine, and Zippy the chimp. But touring has its downside, as well. And if Bear at times feels like an Old Testament prophet, testing his faith in the wilderness by walking in the 'Giant Steps' of his idols, he forges a stoic core of self against the temptations of fame and fortune.

The Bear Comes Home is an astonishingly assured first novel. All too often, writing about music and musicians has the grace and believability of one of those Hollywood movies where the romantic lead laughably noodles away on some unfortunate instrument, or the director splices in footage of a double's nimble fingers to mask an actor's frenzied gesticulations. No such false chords are sounded here — Zabor has his chops down cold. Any stray notes in this improvisation are merely the result of a virtuoso stretching his theme to the limit. Lyrical, poignant, and utterly original, The Bear Comes Home is the best novel on the jazz life since the heyday of the Beat Generation. —Greg Marrs

Washington Post
Cuts straight to the heart of things. By turns wry and whimsical, by turns brave, sad, and questing, it's as profoundly affecting as a great jazz solo. . . .Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. Get The Bear.
Nashville in Review
Jazz is the great American art form. This is the great jazz novel. Do the math.
Literary Review (U.K.)
This is a very ursine book. . . .Immensely strong with a set of claws that can rip your heart out in a blink.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
New York's coterie of jazz musicians makes room for one large addition as a talking, thinking, alto sax-playing Kodiak bear arrives on the jazz scene in this hilarious, richly imagined bear's-eye view of love, music, alienation, manhood and humanity. The Bear and his friend Jones (who won him years earlier in a poker game) have been eking out a living through a degrading street act. Tired of that depressing circus shtick, the Bear begins sitting in with Arthur Blythe at a local jazz club. In addition to Blythe, Billy Hart, Lester Bowie, Charlie Haden, Ornette Coleman and other famous musicians become characters, and the Bear's musical ruminations bring Monk, Mingus, Parker, Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Jackie McClean prominently into the novel. After an early gig gets him shot at, locked up and experimented upon, the Bear strives to avoid publicity even while touring and recording. He struggles painfully through his changing relationship with Jones, an interspecies love affair with beautiful Iris and the strange, alternately menacing and wonderful world of humans.

Drummer/journalist Zabor's invocation of jazz is impressive: far more than beguiling background noise, music is a dynamic presence in this story, central to the Bear's struggle, and Zabor's renderings of its inner dramas are daring and effective. If the romantic subplot is the weakest link in this very solid chain, the Bear's convincing interactions with Jones and the jazzmen show a shambling, cartoonish wit that recalls Pynchon at his most controlled. Best of all, the mystical, wisecracking, well-read, big-hearted, restless Bear comes vividly, enchantingly to life.

Library Journal
A frustrated saxophonist crashes a New York City nightclub gig, beginning a reputation as a much-talked-about, mysterious figure in the jazz world. Along the way, he goes through the rigors of touring, garners a recording contract, does time in prison, and wins the love of a good woman. Pretty standard fare? Wait, factor in that our hero is a real live walking and talking bear. Nothing wrong with that, but unlike William Kotzwinkle's recent The Bear Went Over the Mountain, which plays the 'bear about town' scenario for laughs, first-time novelist Zabor asks us to take the bear's odyssey fairly seriously, expecting us to accept the bear in these situations as easily as the book's characters do. This is a shame, because Zabor's scenes of musical life are vivid and knowledgeable, and his dialogue is uniformly excellent; adding that talking bear seems gimmicky and at odds with the effective reality of the work. With all this strong material, one wonders why the main character is a bear. Perhaps to sell more books? -- Marc A. Kloszewski, Indiana Free Library
Library Journal
A frustrated saxophonist crashes a New York City nightclub gig, beginning a reputation as a much-talked-about, mysterious figure in the jazz world. Along the way, he goes through the rigors of touring, garners a recording contract, does time in prison, and wins the love of a good woman. Pretty standard fare? Wait, factor in that our hero is a real live walking and talking bear. Nothing wrong with that, but unlike William Kotzwinkle's recent The Bear Went Over the Mountain, which plays the 'bear about town' scenario for laughs, first-time novelist Zabor asks us to take the bear's odyssey fairly seriously, expecting us to accept the bear in these situations as easily as the book's characters do. This is a shame, because Zabor's scenes of musical life are vivid and knowledgeable, and his dialogue is uniformly excellent; adding that talking bear seems gimmicky and at odds with the effective reality of the work. With all this strong material, one wonders why the main character is a bear. Perhaps to sell more books? -- Marc A. Kloszewski, Indiana Free Library
The New Yorker
Zabor's knack for detail makes the absurd premise (a walking, talking, Blake- and Shakespeare-quoting bear) believable.
The Washington Post
Cuts straight to the heart of things. By turns wry and whimsical, by turns brave, sad, and questing, it's as profoundly affecting as a great jazz solo. . . .Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. Get The Bear.
Literary Review (U.K.)
This is a very ursine book. . . .Immensely strong with a set of claws that can rip your heart out in a blink.
Kirkus Reviews
Bewilderingly brilliant, frequently frustrating, archly hip debut about a mystically inclined, talking, alto sax-playing bear and the cruel, loving, or merely befuddled Manhattanites who ultimately help him achieve jazz satori. Taking more from Kafka than Disney, Zabor, a jazz drummer and music journalist, introduces us to the unusually gifted Bear, who is suffering the existential angst that comes from dancing and passing the hat on Manhattan's mean streets. One night Bear dons a raincoat and a dark hat, packs up his alto, and sneaks into a jazz club, where he jams with Lester Bowie and Art Blythe, who, like most human inhabitants of the cool, cynical, pearls-before-swine jazz world that Zabor knows so well, are more impressed with Bear's extraordinary sax chops than the fact that he's a bear that talks. Even Ornette Coleman is impressed, launching into a priceless speculation about the virtues of 'quadrupedal tone' versus 'two-footed music.' A subsequent club date, destined to become Bear's first album, ends in a police raid—evidently, animal acts, no matter how non-exploitative, require permits. So the Bear sits in jail, pining for fresh salmon while debating philosophy with a prison psychiatrist. Then jazz-world denizens join forces to spring Bear from jail, spiriting him off to Woodstock, where he can work on his album, ponder the mystical (but not physical—the eventual sex scenes are wonderfully gentle) impossibility of his love for a beautiful woman and prepare for his first tour. There are too many elliptical, navel-gazing meditations on mysticism, love, the imperfections of art—and on why the music business is so sleazy—but, thankfully, there are also momentsof satiric genius in Zabor's passionate portrait of an artist as a cool dude with fur.

Hip, flip, sexy, and worldy-wise, with walk-ons by Charlie Haden and other jazz celebrities: a first novel that has the makings of a cult smash.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393318630
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/1/1998
  • Pages: 492
  • Sales rank: 847,247
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Rafi Zabor is a writer and occasional jazz drummer who lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Bear Comes Home is his first novel.

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Interviews & Essays

On Friday, October 17, 1997, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Rafi Zabor, author of THE BEAR COMES HOME.


Moderator: Rafi Zabor, music journalist, occasional drummer, and author of THE BEAR COMES HOME, is part of our First Fiction Author Series, in which we introduce outstanding works by exciting new authors. Welcome, Mr. Zabor!

Rafi Zabor: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me over.



Greg from NYC: I've tried to explain what makes THE BEAR COMES HOME work to a number of people -- musicians, non-musicians, people leery of a book with a bear as its protagonist -- and what I keep coming back to is the irrepressible humanity of all its players. There's not an unbelievable character in the book -- including Bear. The complex personalities -- their quirks, motivations, and humor -- are as familiar as they are diverse. You must have lived with BEAR and his friends for a long time. Did the book take a long time to write?

Rafi Zabor: The book was written in two bursts, the first in 1979, the second lasting from '94 to '96. What made it survive the 14 years in which I couldn't write the book was the character of the Bear himself, who I hope is larger than life, and who I know is great company.



Kennedy from Seattle: Mr. Zabor, where did you get the idea to use a bear as the protagonist? Was there influence from a previous book or author?

Rafi Zabor: No influences that I'm aware of. I was in Istanbul one afternoon, after having been a jazz critic for two years, when I saw a gypsy leading a dancing bear away from the court of a mosque in front of the Golden Horn. I suddenly got the idea of transposing them to the Lower East Side of New York...going home...and then the saxophone...and the speaking. But obviously without Kafka, without Gogol...who knows?



TJ from compuserve.com: Why a bear? Why not a fox or a dog? Are there characteristics a bear possesses that you thought corresponded better to a jazz musician than some other animal?

Rafi Zabor: Basically because I saw a bear in Istanbul, but also because when a bear stands, it looks like he might be able to play a saxophone and is anatomically like a human, but it was a total fluke, seeing a bear and getting the idea.



Rick Wallach from Miami, Fl: One of the most interesting things about the book was its weaving of myriad popular culture references not explicitly jazz related -- like the expectation of Godzilla rising from New York harbor -- into some sort of weird symbolic vortex that culminates in the inverted Goldilocks story of the final chapter. Were you working out some sort of Spenglerian subversive anti-teleology on purpose, or am I just jamming as a reader?

Rafi Zabor: It's a tic of mine to make lots of cultural references, high and low. I don't know what you mean by anti-teleology, but the book is full of low humor and high metaphysics, and is built on a quite coherent four-tiered cosmology packed to the rafters full of purpose. Look to the imagery rather than the references especially colors, geometries, gardens, water, light. It all culminates at the gig at the Bridge. What I'm most aware of in the Bear's attempts at liberation is a spiritual/mystical ascent through layers of experience to which the material world and its history counterpose situations that read back to the Bear as limitation and farce. It's probably more Hegelian than Spenglerian, the spirit trying to accommodate itself to world and time because it's a comedy. The overall movement is towards reconciliation and union. Klaar?



URLkonig from NYC: I found Iris's behavior after Bear succeeds in helping her reclaim her children very interesting. Did you consciously have her assume that combative, overprotective, mama-bear-like attitude as a sort of role reversal, or am I just experiencing a flashback to my childhood memories of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom?

Rafi Zabor: It was intended to be more about women than about bears. But I did make a mistake in the middle of the book in not letting the reader know what Iris's plans are long before she confides them to the bear. This would have made her quite normal protective instincts clearer and would have put the bear's response in better perspective. It would also make the ending seem better prepared for. Big mistake, sorry.



QT from Atlanta, Ga: What impact do you hope to have on the jazz scene with this book? What impact in general?

Rafi Zabor: I have no ambitions of that kind. I would hope that readers would enjoy the book, find it stimulating, funny, redemptive, moving, etcetera...and that's enough. I do hope that the spiritual/cosmological stuff gets noticed as something more than New Age fluff.



MaryAnn from Charlotte: Did you base characters in the book on people you know or have heard of, or are they completely from your imagination?

Rafi Zabor: There are characters in the book who are living jazz musicians. Others are composites of people I know, some are wholly imagined, and all of them have elements of self-portraiture. Jones and the Bear began as a bipolar self-portrait.



Aileen from NYC: Mr. Zabor, are you a Kafka fan? I'm wondering since you feature the bear as the main character. The concept reminded me -- very loosely, mind you -- of what Kafka did in METAMORPHOSIS.

Rafi Zabor: Of course I've read Kafka and admire him enormously, and he's influenced me as he's influenced everyone, because he's simply part of the modern climate. Certainly his example can help a writer break free of simple realism if he wants or needs to do that, and while a bear could be seen as a goof or ironic riff on METAMORPHOSIS, set in the jazz world, that was not conscious on my part, and there is no stylistic influence. The bear began as a goof on the kind of alienation that Kafka wrote about inconsolably, but I think and hope that the book moves on from there as the story and characters develop. I hope that by the time the book is over it has reached some fresh territory that might even be my own.



Reggie from NYC: I've always wanted to know Can you describe what it's like to improvise jazz with a group? How do you know how to assess what the other guy is doing?

Rafi Zabor: I've done the very best I can in the book. A great deal of that is based on the experience of playing drums with groups and with playing drum solos in which I'm trying to generate some kind of compositional form. Much of the writing about playing in the book is also based on the experience of writing itself. It may be a mixture of experience or pure dumb luck, but a lot of musicians I've spoken with have told me that the musical passages in THE BEAR nail the experience of playing in a group better than anything else they've read.



Damon Short from Chicago: It was a real treat to discover that this book finally came out -- I read the chapters in Musician back when it was a great magazine when they first came out. I haven't gotten through the whole book yet as I'm savoring the story and your writing style. I and many of my friends think you're really one of the best writers on music, but I never see your writing anymore. Are you just into novels and playing drums now?

Rafi Zabor: I stopped doing jazz criticism in about 1988, and would much rather write fiction and work on other book-length projects. But I might do some music pieces in the future; I wouldn't rule it out. I'm glad you like the work I've done in the past, but I think the music passages in the book are far and away better than my old articles, and are certainly better than anything I could do in an article now. The world of fiction and the scope of the character of the Bear give me a tremendous freedom that would be hard to find in a magazine.



Nathan from Denver: What's your writing process like? Did you have lingering reservations when the book finally went to press?

Rafi Zabor: My writing process is when it goes, it goes well, and when it doesn't go well, it doesn't go at all. I have some reservations about the book -- I wish I could have given it another lick, or sat refining it for a year, but frankly, I couldn't afford to do that, and the book had to go out as is. In general I'm happy with the book, but wish I could reverse the error I confessed to earlier, finess a few things a bit better, and remove about 200 commas.



GTM from NJ: The Marsalises figure in a couple of scenes in the book; Wynton's weighing in on the Bear's playing -- rather, the appropriateness of a bear having the audacity to play jazz -- was particularly apt, I thought. How do you think the Bear feels about Wynton setting himself up as the mouthpiece of jazz approbation?

Rafi Zabor: If you're looking for me to knock Wynton, I won't do it. I know Wynton, Branford, and Delfeayo Marsalis pretty well, and while I feel closer to the type of musician Branford is, or could be if he weren't trying to dodge his own talent, I think Wynton is very good at what he does. Of course, my heart's with people like Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, and of course the late John Coltrane, and like that.



Rick Wallach from Miami: Well, let me try to clarify what I meant by anit-teleology The Bear begins to figure himself out by dwelling on the "genetic crapshoot" that made him the way he is, but actually begins to resolve his oh, how I hate this word "existential" malaise by turning a fairy tale inside out. I sensed in that progression a reversal of, say, the Spenglerian model of evolution -- to which, I think, the Bear or narrator actually makes reference somewhere. That reversal struck me as subversive -- perhaps, to extentuate a metaphor, the way jazz compositions "subvert" the popular tunes they often begin with. I suppose I'm looking for some controlling allegories here -- and you may be trying to subvert those too, even while constructing them. It would be pretty Bear-like, as well as jazz-like, of you.

Rafi Zabor: You may be on to something, but what I'm most aware of in the Bear's attempts at liberation is a spiritual/mystical ascent through layers of experience to which the material world and its history counterpose situations that read back to the Bear as limitation and farce. It's probably more Hegelian than Spenglerian, the spirit trying to accommodate itself to the world and time. Und so weiter. Klaar?



Lauren from Brooklyn: This being your first book, what's your opinion of the publishing industry? Did you have a smooth experience?

Rafi Zabor: [Laughs] A very odd experience, since the book was signed in 1981, and Norton was very patient as I dawdled for a decade and a half. But like every author, not to mention every jazz musician, and bus driver, and store clerk, I wish I'd been paid a wee bit more filthy lucre. Advertising would help, too. Otherwise, perfect, he said....



Dennis from the Beach: Did you find it difficult to go from your normal journalistic style to fiction? Thanks, Mr. Zabor -- I'm looking forward to reading your book!

Rafi Zabor: I'm not sure I ever had a normal journalistic style; whatever journalistic style I ever had, I was always hoping to open up and swing with fiction. I look forward to your reading my book, too. Hope it's good for a laugh.



Rick Wallach from Miami: Leaving aside for a moment the burning philosophical issues the book raises, I thought I'd add that the musical scenes are the best I've ever read -- if anything, they begin on the model of the conclusion of Baldwin's SONNY'S BLUES, and suggest a bit of Josef Skvorecky's descriptions from THE BASS SAXOPHONE, but succeed well beyond both. Congratulations...it's a breathtaking accomplishment in itself and puts you in some pretty heavy company. But you also bring a -- oh, hell, I like this word as much as I hate "existential" -- subversive sense of humor to it all, a playfulness that lightens it enough to swing between awesome and delightful. Neat trick.

Rafi Zabor: Wow, thanks a lot. I adore Josef Skvorecky and was thrilled that he blurbed my book and liked it. Oddly enough, I never got all the way through SONNY'S BLUES, but I do highly recommend Geoff Dyer's BUT BEAUTIFUL; I've only read half of it so far, but it's utterly brilliant. Michael Ondaatje also hit some beautiful high notes in his novel about Buddy Bolden, COMING THROUGH SLAUGHTER. Also, check out Archie Shepp's liner notes to his own album, "Mama Too Tight," not to mention Amiri Baraka on Coltrane.



Kevin from aol.com: Rafi, have you run across many women playing jazz? Are they any good?

Rafi Zabor: Sure! How about Carla Bley, JoAnne Brackeen, Mary Lou Williams...and do singers count? There are plenty. I've heard lots of young unknown women who can play wonderfully well these days -- and why not?



Roland from Brooklyn: Do you play in any jazz clubs around New York? Also, how did you get started in jazz music?

Rafi Zabor: I recently did a gig at a place on Sheridan Square; that was a fluke, but I loved it and they might call me back. I was 13 when "Peter Gunn" first aired on TV, and it wasn't the rather rockish main theme, but the ways the shows opened with a walking bass in the minor mode that made me sit up and say, "That's it, that's it," as if someone had called me by my name. From then on I wanted to hear everything and learn everything and if possible play everything I could about it. Writing about it was just an afterthought.



Ann McCracken from Washington, D.C.: Do you have any advice for someone just trying to get published? Did you use an agent?

Rafi Zabor: By all means try to get an agent. My own experience is probably too idiosyncratic to help I was writing articles in Musician magazine, did one about my time as the salad man in a jazz club/restaurant, mentioned that I'd written a novel at the time, and someone from Norton wrote me a letter and said she would like to read it. By all means do the exact same thing if you can, but salad man is a hard gig to get these days. I wish you all the best possible luck in your writing and its chances.



Rick Wallach from Miami: And now for something completely different. I found the interspecies love scenes between Iris and the Bear as deeply troubling as I found the musical scenes exhilarating. That's not to knock the scenes -- I'd hate to be left unruffled by reading, considering how much effort it takes. When you wrote them, you must have been aware that you were asking for trouble from some predictable quarters and I can't wait till the feminist critics go to town on them. What kind of feedback have you gotten so far?

Rafi Zabor: One reviewer said that the most shocking thing about the sex scenes is that they're not particularly shocking. I didn't set out to be troubling, but I did want to play pretty graphically with the polarity between male and female -- you know, men and women being two different species -- and I also wanted to open up the potential sacred area within sexuality, which I figure is not written about or even experienced as much as it might be. And as another reviewer pointed out, those scenes are extremely tender.



Moderator: Thanks for joining us this evening, Mr. Zabor.

Rafi Zabor: I'm sorry this is over so soon. I'd like to thank you all for reading my book, and for feeling sufficiently stimulated by it to ask a question or two. If you would like to extend the dialogue, feel free to write me care of Norton, attention Noah Mass sorry, Noah, but I just can't help myself, and I'll certainly write back. In the meantime, it's been great chatting with you. Thanks very much and peace....


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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2006

    Buy Two!!! You Will Want To Give One To Your Best Friend!!!

    I'm not kidding. I just logged on to buy my fourth and fifth copies of the book so that I can give one to a friend for her birthday and replace my last copy that I gave away... again. Whenever I give the book away I always make a 'Bear's Mixtape' to go along with it. I fill it with Coltrane, Davis, Blakey, and other jazz greats that the Bear would have played with. Also, this is NOT a fantasy book. If you're like me, you probably liked The Hobbit, especially when you were 13, but have since stopped playing Dungeons and Dragons and reading sci-fi. Do NOT hesitate to buy The Bear Comes Home because you're a little more than skeptical of a book who's main character is a talking Kodiak. This book is about friendship, love, ostricization, jazz, and (oddly enough) the human condition. That the lead character is a bear provides a context for these stories to develop and affect the reader. My only criticism is that Zabor hasn't written another 'Bear' book. Enjoy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2003

    Take a Big Leap

    The writing is very very good, the story interesting but the whole concept is more than a bit disturbing. I couldn't put it down by found myself shuddering at the love scenes. The Bear was a very complicated character, not exactly likable; he seemed very much like a few self-absorbed artist/geniuses I have known. Bears look cute and cuddly but his personality was anything but. All in all, a very interesting book that I'm sure had deeper meaning than I got out of it. Worth a few days of your time even if you care nothing about jazz. I wish I liked the characters more. The only one I was really sympathetic to was Jones. The author says in afterword that he hopes the book brings the reader inside the world of jazz music, and it certainly does that. The descriptions of the musical sessions and club dates absolutely took you there. I would read something else by this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2002

    Zabor's 'Bear' captures the essence of jazz and improvisation better than any book I've read to date!

    I couldn't put this book down, and when I did it was because I felt like I needed to go practice my horn. I had never read a book that described the art of improvisation in such a descriptive and insightful way. The way Zabor involves real jazz musicians makes it seem all the more real. At times you even forget that you are reading about a bear at all (although the relationship with Iris is a constant reminder). A great book.

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