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Bear v. Shark: The Novel Paperback – November 12, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (November 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743219473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743219471
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

It's the near future (we still have SUVs, but now our TVs don't have "off" buttons), and the U.S. is obsessed by one question: given a water level that would allow a shark to swim without keeping a bear from deft maneuvering, which one would win if they had a fight--the bear or the shark? The answer lies in the sovereign nation of Las Vegas, where bear and shark will go fin to paw in a computer-animated--it's "realer than real"--rematch (the shark won the first time around). The story--written in short episodic chapters that are sometimes transcripts of commercials, including one for the world's best "ursine porn" Web site-- follows young Curtis Norman, who won tickets for his family with his essay "Bear v. Shark: A Reason to Live." The short chapters keep the pace quick and the book funny, and the attacks on technophilic America will appeal to fans of Chuck Palahniuk and Mark Leyner. In the end, though, this first novel is eerily similar to the cultural phenomena it so relentlessly satirizes: hugely entertaining but not particularly deep. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you like The Simpsons and The Onion and were waiting for a brilliant young novelist with that sensibility to incorporate that kind of satirical aim with silky prose, loaded with original aphorisms and biting observations about infomercials and an entire culture drugged by TV hype, I suspect you will like this novel. Close to a hundred chapters with each chapter around two pages, this novel is comprised of potent epigrams that made me sometimes think I was listening to one of my favorite comediens Steve Wright or at other times watching my favorite cartoon The Simpsons, or at other times reading something from The Onion. As far as plot goes, a family goes to Vegas to watch a pay per view special event, what is a hyped up battle between a bear and a shark, hence the title. Of course, this premise is simply the excuse to write his satire. If you read "page turners" in the sense of "what happens next?", then this is not your kind of novel. But if you love the humor of Steve Wright, The Simpsons, and The Onion and appreciate incredible writing style and polish, I'm almost sure you'll love this novel, as I do.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John E. Davidson on April 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this excellent satire on the media, however it may not be for everybody.

There is something intrinsically difficult about satirising one type of media in another. Bachelder attempts to get around the problem by using a very fragmented structure - there are lots of very brief chapters (usually only a page or two) and even within the chapters the style is highly fragmented. He often appears to be attempting to create the sensation of media and information overload, interweaving multiple threads simultaneously (internal monologues, conversations, radio shows, baseball scores). For me, he succeeds most of the time but the style is occasionally a little wearing. It helps that the book is packed with cultural and historical jokes - often delivered in the form of malapropisms - constantly making the point that information does not equal knowledge.

The book is set in the near future where the media, primarily television and the Internet, are even more all pervasive than today. Televisions sense that the viewer is bored and changes the channel automatically. Everybody is on-line all the time. It is a future with zero attention span.

Bear v Shark is the question/joke/theme that runs through the book. "Given a relatively level playing field -- i.e., water deep enough so that a shark could manoeuvre 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 future Bear v Shark has overwhelmed the culture, it has become the 'eternal question'. It is the only thing anybody seems to be interested in. Society is split between shark followers and bear followers (only a small minority of weirdoes is undecided).
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
You'd really be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining book than Bear v. Shark. Bachedler has invented a fictional world that's easy to laugh at but seems way, way too real and immediate in an eerie sort of way. The book satirizes today's world by presenting an all-too-possible fantasy world in what might be the not-too-distant future. As I laughed at the characters in the book, I found that I was laughing at myself, too. Don't feel bad, though. Bachelder laughs at himself, too, and even at the novel he writes. He plays around with language. He plays around with the way the reader reads the language. He plays around with the way the novel's put together. Unpredictability is entertaining, and this book is full of it. Bear v. Shark is an awesome book, Don Quixote-ish in one way, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-ish in another way, but ultimately just creative and original.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Scott George on August 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
I picked this one up at one of those discount book warehouses based upon reading the first page in the store. When I got around to reading this book, I had a hard time trying to decide if I liked it. The book is a satire about the influence of television, infomercials, entertainment-as-news and advertising in America today. It is written in a collection of sound bites, news clips, and slogans. It reminds me in many ways of Chuck Palahniuk's work. Much of it is very funny and original. But, the stylistics get a bit annoying after awhile. I think this would have been an excellent short story. Still, I think this was good writing and very witty. I look forward to seeing more from this author.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Thomas K Forbes on May 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book took me quite some time to even begin to grasp. But suddenly, once I figured out how to read the author's writing, it took on a life of its own. Don't put this book down, even if you hate it. It builds to a conclusion that makes you want to throw the book, because you are left simultaneously so fulfilled and completely unsatisfied. Brilliant satire, hilarious writing and a disturbing look at our future means that Bachelder has constructed a true gem.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
BVS is a shockingly strong debut. This is without a doubt the funniest book i've read this year, but Bachelder injects just enough doubt and ambiguity into his writing to make you feel for what you're laughing at. I won't spoil the surprise by giving away any of the plot (paper-thin, yes, but in a good way). Very quick, intelligent stuff. Pick this book up if you're going to be on the road any time soon - I read it on a recent plane trip, and have never had a more enjoyable flight.
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