The Bear Went Over the Mountain


William Kotzwinkle




Date Reviewed:

February 17, 2008

he Bear Went Over the Mountain gets a nice four star rating because at several points it made me laugh aloud. Genuinely funny books are rare, I think comedy writing must the most difficult form of writing. Lots of books are amusing, it is a rarity to find one that is truly laugh-out-loud. Kotzwinkle is successful with this book.

The plot line for The Bear Went Over the Mountain is straightforward. Professor Arthur Bramhall has retreated to the Maine woods to write a thrilling novel. But before he can publish the book, a bear steals the manuscript and has it published in his name - Hal Jam. The joke is that no one notices that Hal Jam is a bear. The other joke is that no one reads the book, despite the fact that Destiny and Desire becomes a huge bestseller. Once Destiny and Desire becomes a monster hit, everyone wants a part of the action. Hal, being a bear, desires only food and lots of it.

Hal is invited on talk shows, he meets movers and shakers; he is pursued by Hollywood agents; presidential candidates seek his endorsement - in each encounter, there is plenty of misunderstanding - Hal talks in short sentences, mostly about food, while the humans read too much into his grunts and short answers. Hal's bear-like behavior is shrugged off as mere eccentricity, all celebrities have their outrageous behavioral quirks.

The Bear Went Over the Mountain was nominated for the 1997 World Fantasy Award - apparently, Kotzwinkle won that award in 1977 for his novel Doctor Rat - I will have to add that book to my huge stack of To-Be-Read some day titles.