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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)
List Price: CDN$ 19.99
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Wonderful! Dec 23 2003
Format:Paperback
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 motion, the story is one riot after another. Did I mention that it's fast paced and easy to read? Buy this book and bring it back to the number one slot where it belongs.
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1.0 out of 5 stars one star is one too many May 25 2004
By bob
Format:Paperback
I am both astounded and confounded by the reviews here. Simply put, this is the single worst novel I have ever read. Everything about it--the writing, the characters, the story--is godawful. Here follows an absolutely true story. While I was forcing myself to read this drivel, I went out on date. She and I were discussing how much of a book one should read before giving up on it. I was advocating the 25 page litmus, and she insisted on at least fifty. She did several long train commutes a week to and from work, and so read a lot of novels. Anyway, I started describing this book. She recognized it immediately, and interrupted me saying, "The Bear Went Over The Mountain! Don't read another word! If you think it's bad now, it only gets worse, if you can believe it!" She was right. If you feel the need to find out for yourself, save your money and borrow it from a friend or the library.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Funny. But its not a "masterpiece" May 4 2004
Format:Paperback
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Fable for the Ages March 2 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
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.
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2.0 out of 5 stars GROSS AND DUMB Feb. 24 2004
By Val
Format:Paperback
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. I could believe
it would appeal to a bunch of 8th grade boys in a crowd who are trying to see who can be the grossest, but beyond that I am at
a complete loss.
If your tastes run to "quirky" (& I would disagree with that
definition but it seems to appeal to the reviewers), then maybe
you will find this book a good read. But I would suggest that
it is time to grow up or acquire some sophistication.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Maddeningly Hilarious! Feb. 22 2004
Format:Paperback
This positively brilliant book follows the life of a bear who happens to find a manuscript in the woods. Soon, the bear becomes a star and everyone loves him (they think he's just shaggy and quiet, they can't tell he's a bear). This novel is not only hilarious it is also kind of deep. Plus, this is the only book I've ever read (and enjoyed) from the Literature Section (I kid you not). If you're an English major you MUST READ THIS BOOK. If you're not an English major, but you have a good sense of humor and a fine imagination, this book is good for you too.
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Format:Paperback
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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