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The Bear Went Over the Mountain

The Bear Went Over the Mountain

4.4 11
by William Kotzwinkle

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Once upon a time in rural Maine, a big black bear found a briefcase under a tree. Hoping for food, he dragged it into the woods, only to find that all it held was the manuscript of a novel. He couldn’t eat it, but he did read it, and decided it wasn’t bad. Borrowing some clothes from a local store, and the name Hal Jam from the labels of his favorite foods


Once upon a time in rural Maine, a big black bear found a briefcase under a tree. Hoping for food, he dragged it into the woods, only to find that all it held was the manuscript of a novel. He couldn’t eat it, but he did read it, and decided it wasn’t bad. Borrowing some clothes from a local store, and the name Hal Jam from the labels of his favorite foods he headed to New York to seek his fortune in the literary world.

Then he took America by storm.

The Bear Went Over the Mountain
is a riotous, magical romp with the buoyant Hal Jam as he leaves the quiet, nurturing world of nature for the glittering, moneyed world of man. With a pitch-perfect comic voice and an eye for social satire to rival Swift or Wolfe, bestselling author William Kotzwinkle limns Hal’s hilarious journey to New York, Los Angeles, and the great sprawling country in between, where a bear makes good despite his animal instincts, and where money-hungry executives see not a hairy beast with a purloined novel, but a rough-hewn, soulful, media-perfect nature guy who just might be the next Hemingway.

By turns sidesplittingly funny, stingingly ironic, and unexpectedly tender, The Bear Went Over the Mountain captures the zeitgeist of the 1990s dead-on, in a delicious bedtime story for grown-ups.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is certainly the season for satirical looks at publishing. After Olivia Goldsmith's The Bestseller comes this delightful fable by Kotzwinkle (whose E.T. shares with Winston Groom's Forrest Gump the distinction of being its author's best-known title despite having been read by comparatively few people). Kotzwinkle has imagined a disconsolate Maine professor, Arthur Bramhall, who sets out to write a bestseller, only to have a bear steal it, thinking it's something to eat. This is no ordinary bear, however; he has aspirations to becoming a person (they eat so much better, and with much less trouble, than bears do). What better way to establish an identity than by becoming a celebrity novelist? Soon, the bear has found a pseudonym, Hal Jam, an agent and a publisher. With his distinctively masculine presence, and a monosyllabic way of talking that reminds many of Hemingway, he's on his way to stardom with a novel that everyone agrees has its roots deep in the natural world. Soon, he has a Hollywood agent, too, and the admiration of a Southern writer whose specialty is angels; both of them succumb to Hal's exuberant love-making (since a bear normally does it only once a year, a lot of libido is saved up). A pillar of the Christian right wants Hal's support for a run for the presidency, and Hal is only too willing, since he thinks "candidacy,'' like most words he doesn't know, means something to eat. Meanwhile, Bramhall, who is turning into a bear as fast as Hal is becoming human, launches a lawsuit to recover his lost book. How it all works out, and how Hal finds himself a sequel, is the meat of Kotzwinkle's hilarious and sometimes touching parable. The book business is unmercifully skewered (having read only a few lines of the novel, Hal's publicity person writes a summary on which all interviewers depend), but the spirit is mostly kindly, and in Hal Kotzwinkle has created a real star.
Library Journal
Here's one author you'll never forget. We don't mean Kotzwinkle, who does have best sellers like E.T. (LJ 8/82) to his credit, but his latest protagonist: a bear in the Maine woods who discovers an abandoned manuscript and heads to New York to seek literary fortune.
School Library Journal
YA-Hal Jam takes a manuscript that he finds under a tree in rural Maine, breaks into a store to secure appropriate clothing, and heads for New York City to transform the manuscript into a runaway best-seller. Jam thinks, talks, and behaves like a human with bearlike tendencies; the only unusual part of this scenario is that he is in fact a bear. Kotzwinkle has created a very funny novel, satirizing many different aspects of the literary world. While Hal Jam becomes more and more human in behavior, the real author of the manuscript, Arthur Bramhall, falls further and further into reclusiveness searching for possible ideas for a future novel. As he retreats from humankind, his bearlike characteristics become more and more permanent. Only a brief attempt to identify himself as the author of the famous novel shakes Bramhall from his winter slumber. As Hal Jam thrives in his new environment, he encounters all the negatives found in a fast-wheeling money-driven society-drugs, alcohol, greed, and under-the-table agreements. His human behavior struggles with his still-prominent bear behavior. He has the normal desires of a male bear and acts upon them. And no one sees the bear. There are a lot of outrageous scenes, both in rural Maine and in urban areas. Sophisticated students will understand the underlying satire; others will laugh just for the sake of laughing.-Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
From the Publisher

“I think William Kotzwinkle is our Boccaccio-there isn't anyone funnier, smarter, or more inventive than he.” —Richard Bausch

“A delightful fable . . . hilarious . . . Kotzwinkle has created a real star.” —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
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File size:
2 MB

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Meet the Author

William Kotzwinkle is the author of such enduring classics as The Fan Man, Morgana, and E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. His most recent novel, The Game of Thirty, was hailed by Stephen King as “top-level entertainment . . . a suspense novel to rank with the classics of the genre.” Mr. Kotzwinkle lives with  his wife, writer Elizabeth Gundy, on an island off the Maine coast.

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The Bear Went Over the Mountain 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Book_Goddess More than 1 year ago
This book twists the knife on what is the state of humans. We only see what we want or need for our purpose - A writer, Money, status, a title - mmmmm- must be cream of the Human being crop. Love this book - laughed out loud on the subway. Sent to all my friends
Guest More than 1 year ago
The characters are cliché, the plot is easy to follow but isn¿t that the point with a fable. Kotzwinkle takes something we know, or think we know, and twist it to show a window into our nature. This is an excellent book, that¿s insightful and very funny.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are in the mood for a good laugh at society, particularly those involved with literature, then this book is for you. It is difficult to put this one down, except when you have to, because you cannot stop laughing. The dog's thoughts, even though just a minor part of the story, provided the funniest moments, but the bear's journey in the literary world is not only funny, but thought provoking. It is a quick read, and well worth it. I really enjoyed this book.
lalindy More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyable euphamism on human frailty.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is possibly one of the best books ever written. My friend Jim got it and shared it with me, then i passed it on to another friend starting a chain reaction. Next thing we know he had a huge late fee at the library. God bless this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not make myself finish this book. It jumped around, didn't make sense and I found it depressing.
KaneH More than 1 year ago
This is a great satire of human obliviousness, identity, and the modern publishing world, and it succeeds on all counts. When a bear in Maine finds a novel in a briefcase under a tree, he embarks on a journey to see where it might lead. The result is a grand farce as the bear becomes the new author of the year, and seeks to adapt to his new identity, while the people around him react according to their personal slants. Meanwhile, the real author turns ever more bear-like, regressing to his primitive nature. Filled with fun little insights and comedic turns, and the best commentary on the unreal world of Manhattan publishing.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
For my opinion the book is not that difficult. but most of all it was funny. after i was done with the book i recommend it to my friends, which they liked it too..
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book!- A very unique story. I laughed out loud a lot of times!! Not a book for children!