Zabor, Rafi. The Bear Comes Home. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1979.
Reason read: May is Music month.
In a nutshell:The Bear Comes Home is a story about a talking, walking, pants-wearing, saxophone-playing bear. Wrap your brain around that for a moment and then consider this: the bear is an avid reader, talks philosophy and emotionally and physically loves a woman. I knew from the inside flap this book was going to be an interesting read, especially when I read, “a vexed, physically passionate and anatomically correct inter-species love affair with a beautiful woman named Iris.” Um. Okay. It’s the “anatomically correct” piece that really puts it into perspective. But! Trust me when I say this is a deep book. I mean deeeep. Zabor is a little long winded when it comes to subjects he is passionate about. There are pages and page about jazz music and the musicians who perfected it, but somehow the entire thing works. The Bear is a little too angsty but considering his circumstances, stuck in the human world, who could blame him?
As an aside, I have two Natalie connections to this book. This time “Dancing Bear” from Leave Your Sleep (of course) and the mention of the song “But Not For Me” which Natalie has covered.
Another aside, I loved, loved, loved the musical references. Mention of Prince’s Black Album made me swoon (been missing him a lot lately).
Line to like, “It had to do with the heaviness of obsession” (p 363).
Author fact: Zabor is a musician as well as an author. Obviously.
Book trivia: Bear Comes Home features a few real life musicians. Obviously. Another piece of trivia: it won the PEN Faulkner award.
Nancy said: Pearl said Bear Comes Home is a “slightly different take on music in fiction” (Book Lust p 164).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Music and Musicians” (p 164).
I can’t even begin to describe May. My first time to the Southwest. My first time traveling with family. Many different firsts. But, enough of that. Here are the books:
- The Man in Gray Flannel by Sloan Wilson
- Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler
- Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor
- Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
- Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs
- Farthest North by Dr. Fridtjof Nansen
- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
- Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
I will be traveling for part of May so who knows how many books I’ll be able to read for this month. Here is the list I will attempt:
- Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson – in honor of May being Wilson’s birth month.
- Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs – in honor of Graphic Novel month being in May.
- Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler – in honor of May is Museum Month.
- Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor- in honor of May being Music Month.
- Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters – in honor of the first Thursday in May being Prayer Week.
- Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian – in honor of my father’s birth month. As a kid he read this book.
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit – in honor of May being Nesbit’s birth month.
- Farthest North by Fridtjof Nansen – in honor of Peary’s birth month being in May. From one explorer to another.
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in honor of Trollope’s birth month in April.
Kotzwinkle, William. The Bear Went Over the Mountain. New York: Doubleday, 1996.
If you remembered I had already tried a Kotzwinkle book and failed, kudos to you. Because I didn’t. At first glance I thought The Bear Went Over the Mountain was a book for kids. The cover sure looked that way and the plot definitely looked that way. I should have known this was something I wasn’t going to be able to wrap my brain around. Call me rigid. Call me StickIntheMud, but I really, really couldn’t enjoy The Bear Went Over the Mountain because I have no ability to half suspend belief.
Here’s the premise: Miserable University of Maine professor, Arthur Bramhall, has written a book he hopes will save him from teaching ever again. He thinks the manuscript is a winner and will make him millions. Unfortunately, the story goes up in flames when his secluded farmhouse goes up in flames. Never mind. He rewrites it practically word for word only this time it’s better. In order to avoid another book ablaze he hides it in a briefcase under a tree…only to have a bear steal it. The bear reads the manuscript and knows a good story when he sees it. He travels to New York to hawk the book and ends up making movie deals and having sex with humans. While the bear (Hal Jam) becomes more human, the professor (Arthur Bramhall) becomes more animal after the loss of his manuscript.
I will admit The Bear Went Over the Mountain solicited a giggle here and there but for the most part I found myself scolding the stupid humans for not being able to recognize a bear wearing pants and a clip-on tie.
Author Fact: William Kotzwinkle lives on a island off the coast of Maine, according to the inside flap of The Bear Went Over the Mountain. All I know is that island isn’t Monhegan.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter simply called “Humor” (p 116) and again, in “My Own Private Dui” (p 165) another chapter in Book Lust.