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.
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