The Bear Went Over the Mountain

( 10 )

Overview

William Kotzwinkle, the esteemed author of The Fan Man and E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, is in top comic form in this outrageous and uproarious parable featring Hal Jam?a big black bear who finds a manuscript under a tree in the Maine woods, dons a suit and a tie, and heads off to the big city to seek his fame and fortune. What follows is a riotous magical romp with the buoyant Hal Jam as he leaves the quiet, nurturing world of the forest for the glittering and corrupt world of humans. New York and Hollywood and ...

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The Bear Went Over the Mountain

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Overview

William Kotzwinkle, the esteemed author of The Fan Man and E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, is in top comic form in this outrageous and uproarious parable featring Hal Jam—a big black bear who finds a manuscript under a tree in the Maine woods, dons a suit and a tie, and heads off to the big city to seek his fame and fortune. What follows is a riotous magical romp with the buoyant Hal Jam as he leaves the quiet, nurturing world of the forest for the glittering and corrupt world of humans. New York and Hollywood and all that lies between serve as an expansive palette for Kotzwinkle’s wickedly funny satiric brush. The Bear Went Over the Mountain skewers our age’s obsession with money and fame in a delicious bedtime story for grown-ups.

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Editorial Reviews

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

Edward Neuert

You shouldn't judge a book by its epigraph. Having said that, however, I note that the title page of William Kotzwinkle's new novel, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, is scarier than most:

The bear went over the mountain

The bear went over the mountain

The bear went over the mountain

to see what he could see ...

This insubstantial nugget leads into, appropriately enough, an almost fiber-free novel about the soulless shell that is American book publishing. Kotzwinkle's hero is an affable bear who moseys out of the Maine woods one day and finds the manuscript of a novel hidden under a tree, where it's been ditched by a disillusioned English professor. Bear takes briefcase, reads novel, and likes it. And after stealing a suit of clothes and acquiring the name Hal Jam from a jar of one of his favorite foodstuffs, he sets off for the big city to find an agent, a publisher and perhaps a tasty pie or two. He gets all these in short order, along with a place on the bestseller list, movie deals and talk-show celebrity.

Kotzwinkle has assembled a cast of just the sort of characters you'd expect: a hyperkinetic public relations maven, a driven Hollywood agent, a shallow publisher -- none of whom has ead more than the "coverage" of the book in question. There are few surprises in these characters, and fewer still in the plot. The book has much the same tension as Jerzy Kosinski's Being There -- will anyone notice Hal's true nature as he ascends the ladder of celebrity?

At the heart of The Bear Went Over the Mountain lies the framework of an interesting fable. But you can't help thinking that the great American fabulists of the past -- Mark Twain or George Ade, for example -- would have packed twice its pith into half its 300-page length. This is a novel that, while it satirizes the connection between Hollywood and the publishing world, is fully a product of that union. Kotzwinkle, who proudly lists the novelization of E.T. on his bio, and who scripted Nightmare on Elm Street, IV, has already optioned the book's film rights to Jim Henson Productions. What you have here, surely not for the first or last time, is a novelization before the fact. Better to let Fozzy Bear add his interpretation and catch the whole thing on video. -- Salon

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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805054385
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 452,215
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

William Kotzwinkle is a two-time winner of the National Magazine Award for Fiction, a winner of the World Fantasy Award, and a nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 19, 2009

    Amazing

    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

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2004

    Fable for the Ages

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2000

    Hilarious!

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2013

    Thoroughly enjoyable euphamism on human frailty.

    Thoroughly enjoyable euphamism on human frailty.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2002

    My Favorite Book

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2004

    funny

    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..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2003

    Lots of Fun!

    I really enjoyed this book!- A very unique story. I laughed out loud a lot of times!! Not a book for children!

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    Posted November 27, 2010

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    Posted December 25, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2009

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