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The Bear Went Over the Mountain: A Novel (Owl Book) Paperback – November 15, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

You might think that a writer best-known for novelizing the movie "E.T." would find a satire on the book publishing industry hitting a bit close to home, but William Kotzwinkle seems quite comfortable with the task in this comic fable. In Kotzwinkle's merry send-up, the author of the hit novel "Desire and Destiny" is a bear, a real bear, who after finding the manuscript under a spruce tree and attaching his nom de plume, Hal Jam, becomes rich and famous overnight. Obtuse editors, star-hound agents, and a right-wing televangelist and Presidential candidate all warm to Hal's warm, bearish honesty without bothering to read his book--or to notice that he's an animal, for that matter. It's an old gag turned by a canny author to amusing, if not always compelling, purposes. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers 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. Movie rights optioned by Jim Henson Pictures; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Owl Book
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (November 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805054383
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805054385
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

American novelist William Kotzwinkle is a two-time recipient of the National Magazine Award for Fiction, a Book Critics Circle award nominee, a winner of the World Fantasy Award, the Prix Litteraire des Bouquinistes des Quais de Paris, the PETA Award for Children's Fiction, and he wrote the narration for Michael Jackson's E.T. record which won a special children's Grammy.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 26, 1996
Format: Hardcover
One of the funniest books I've ever read, Kotzwinkles
telling of the story almost has you believing that a bear
could actually pull all this off! The hero of the story is
a bear who one day finds a book manuscript hidden in the
back woods of Maine, reads it and thinks its such a
wonderful story that he takes (steals) it to New York city
with the idea of selling it. After adopting an alias (Hal
Jam), he peddles the book around the NY publishing world
and meets many quirky and self absorbed people on his way
to eventually becoming world famous. Throughout the story he
vacillates back and forth between wanting to remain in the
comfortable but strange and "hard to figure out" world of
man - with its unlimited quantities of sweets and women;
and wanting to return to his beloved forest where life is
so much simpler. The plot is very much like the movie "Being
There", except with a slapstick slant. Everyone that the
bear meets reads deep and profound meaning into Hal's
brooding silences and short, out of context statements. It
kept me laughing out loud for two straight days, I can't
remember the last time a book did that to me!
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Format: Paperback
This is a wickedly funny satire of publishing and life, wherein a nice bear stumbles upon a manuscript in the woods and decides to become an author. As authors are notoriously eccentric, his strangeness is discounted by all (he is the next Hemingway, they say, so raw and back to nature). At the same time, the fellow who actually wrote the book is finding that his anger and depression is leading him into the woods where he is becoming more gruff than ever.
There are sections here where I was literally snorting with laughter, usually in response to the literal-mindedness of the bear's reaction to humans--their mating rituals, the hoarding of food, those things important in life. Like the best fable, Kotzwinkle shows us through his bear character that all of these things we accept so easily are so much more, and also shows us through the human author that the city life is only part of the story.
The methodology of the tale is ultra-fantastic, even "magic realism" if you will. Kotzwinkle constantly reminds us that the bear is a bear, even as he becomes more human-like (and vice versa for the author turned woodsman). It resembles Carol Emshwiller's Carmen Dog in this manner--the animals may speak, but there's still a difference between them and humans. The satire resembles Terry Bisson's "Bears Discover Fire" (you could say this is "Bears Discover Publishing") in that it juxtaposes the raw nature of the beast with the civilized society. As much as I admire Bisson's story, I think Kotzwinkle out-does him, basically just by being able to extend the conceit for an entire novel. This is highly recommended to fans of realist fantasy and humorous works in general.
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Format: Paperback
There's so much truth about the publishing world in this drop-dead-funny satire that it's a wonder the publishing world ever published it!
Outrageous premise of a man who writes The Great American Novel, loses the manuscript in the woods, and becomes so depressed that he goes into hibernation and becomes beast-like. The flip side of the equation, the part that makes this book a dangerous one to read in bed beside a sleeping mate, is that the manuscript is found by a bear who manages to sell it on a trip to New York. The bear is courted by NY's best and finest celebs, and he impresses reviewers, agents, and editors with his hyper-intelligent and deeply moving monosyllabic grunts and one-word responses to interview questions.
But the parts that'll make your trying-to-sleep spouse want to kill you are the love scenes between the bear and the object of his affection, a 'fur-bearing woman,' (a lady who doesn't shave her legs).
Don't miss it. Buy two, and give one to your favorite quirky friend.
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By A Customer on December 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
William Kotzwinkle has the rare and wonderful gift of seeing life exactly as it is. This is the funniest, most lovable book I've ever read. It's a little treasure, a true look at the publishing business in America today. It's too bad the book has been overlooked by so many. I'm so happy to see that so many other Amazon customers also appreciate Kotzwinkle's genius.
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Format: Hardcover
William Kotzwinkle is a great writer and deserves all the encomia that perceptive readers heap on him, and nowhere is this more evident than in BEAR, a brilliantly, manically, marvelously funny little book that in its own way cuts to the bone and sends up the publishing industry and the publicity-conscious celebrity world in cruelly telling ways.
Herein lies the Kotzwinkle Perplex. This terrific talent is still relatively unknown and unacknowledged in the publishing world, based on an analysis of his past books. BEAR is in part the sardonic answer. Today, as most thoughtful readers and writers know, celebrity and notoriety are the keys to the publishing kingdom, in an industry where editors are given sales quotas they must meet (or be fired) and where John Walker Lindh, Monica and Denise Rich are considered actual or potential 'great writers' merely because of their dubious 'achievements.'
Hal Jam and Kotzwinkle know these truths and trade on them playfully, but with an edge. That's why this is such a fine and surprising book and why more people should read it.
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