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The Bear Went Over the Mountain: A Novel [Paperback]

William Kotzwinkle
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 15 1997 Owl Book
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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From Amazon

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny. But its not a "masterpiece" May 4 2004
I'm very surprised to see how many people are giving this 5 stars, and judging by the amplitude in their reviews, they'd give 6 stars if they could. But its really a simple story, with a funny premise, that lasts a bit too long.
There are laugh-out-loud moments, especially the dialog between the Bear and his exemplar publishing characters. The Bear's inner monologues ("should I kill all the males in this room") are hysterical, as were the occasional dog commentaries. I gladly looked past the fact that no person would believe him to be a person, given his physical appearance. Its a fairy tale. But the publishing characters are SO dumb, SO ridiculous, the subtlety of the book vanishes.
The counter-story involving Bramhall is just flat and uninteresting. It tries to be ironic, but ends up being filler. The main story with the Bear grows tiresome as well. How many funny ways can a human misinterpret Hal? Before long, the story is bouncing from the White House, to a Christian TV station, to parties, to Harlem. Its as if the author polled his friends with the phrase "Wouldn't it be funny if a bear [fill in the blank]", and added it in the book.
The book has a lot going for it, mainly the warm writing and spare but absolutely hilarious dialogue (and monologue). But let's not go overboard: its essentially a one-note joke told over and over again, and you're not unhappy the book finally ends.
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This book is sort of a Forrest Gump style novel where the main characther is a bear. It is obviously not relaistic as no one ever picks up that Hal Jam is a bear, I mean his appearance should give it away, especially for the women who sleep with him, but if you can overlook this fact then you can get some enjoyment from this book.
Basic plot is that a human writes one of the greatest novels mankind has ever seen on a typewriter so he has no proof or copies. (Can you even get typewriters these days another point you need to overlook and how much longer would writing an novel on one take correcting errors and stuff.) Anyway he is so stupid he leaves it in a brief case under a tree in the forrest and is actually surprised when he returns and it is not there. Wanting the briefcase to initially contain food a bear is disapointed, but then thinks, what the hey I can maybe get this pubilshed and breaks into a sports store to steal clothes and pass as human. The whole publishing and media industry's shallowness is highlighted in this novel as the bear's misunderstanding of human customs makes him a unique and cool individual in the world's eyes. The book is good enough that you'll want to finish it but it is very overrated. There are a lot better books out there.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read it and weep - with laughter April 30 2003
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Ultra-fantastic Satire July 26 2002
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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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars one star is one too many
I am both astounded and confounded by the reviews here. Simply put, this is the single worst novel I have ever read. Read more
Published on May 24 2004 by bob
4.0 out of 5 stars 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... Read more
Published on March 2 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars GROSS AND DUMB
I find it absolutely amazing that this book has 4 1/2 stars.
Do readers have no taste at all. I cannot begin to relate just
how many ways this book is unfunny and gross. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2004 by Val
5.0 out of 5 stars Maddeningly Hilarious!
This positively brilliant book follows the life of a bear who happens to find a manuscript in the woods. Read more
Published on Feb. 21 2004 by "veggiewrap001"
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Wonderful!
The Bear Went Over the Mountain is one of the funniest books I've ever read. The notion that a talking bear can get a novel publish is a bit wacky, but once the situation is set in... Read more
Published on Dec 23 2003 by Doug Keller
5.0 out of 5 stars A Charming Story
A charming book and genuinely funny to boot.
It's impossible not to like Hal Jam, a true innocent abroad, as he makes his way through the shark infested world of publishing... Read more
Published on Dec 13 2003 by Ronnie Pollock
2.0 out of 5 stars Just OK
The Bear Went Over the Mountain could easily been condensed into 100 pages. I was not impressed, though I will admit that it had some "laugh out loud moments. Read more
Published on Dec 8 2003 by L. Dubuc
5.0 out of 5 stars The bear went over the mountain
Fabulous read! A page-turner! I laughed out loud every so often and I almost believed that a tubby bear can really pull all these off! Simple to read, yet depicts humanity. Read more
Published on Sept. 5 2003 by Hazel
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
The Bear Went Over the Mountain is not only hilarious it is also a great commentary on our society. If only more books this funny existed!
Published on May 14 2003 by "veggiewrap001"
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever, if a bit silly at times
It's been awhile since I've read it, once on a road trip. What I can remember is having to frequently laugh out loud, then reading it aloud to my startled mother. Read more
Published on Dec 12 2002 by Kindle Customer
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