The Monday Book: THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN by William Kotzwinkle

Okay, I hate magical realism. Why I picked up this book, I cannot tell you, but I’m so glad I did. It is laugh out loud funny. I read so many parts of it out loud to Jack, he finally told me to stop, he’d read it later.bear

Aesop’s Fables meets David Lodge in this book about a bear who finds a novel in a briefcase, and decides to turn himself into somebody. Which means going to New York, becoming the toast of the publishing and talk circuit world, and buying a British title. Also lots and lots of pies, cakes, ice cream, pretzels, and potato chips. He’s a bear. He names himself Hal Jam, because there’s nothing nicer than jam, and he can remember how to spell Hal.

People involved in the publishing and/or cult of celebrity world will shriek with recognition at some of the antics of this bear and his team, but everyone is going to love him on some level. If it gives you any insights, the book culminates in a lawsuit about copyright.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

The bear looked out the window at the city. “Mine,” he thought. Of course he’d need to shit around the perimeter and subdue some females, but time enough for that.

When I wasn’t annoying Jack by saying, “Wait wait, listen to this!” I was laughing out loud, startling the dogs as they lay by the bed. This book is so very, very funny. It skewers the publishing experience and a few other things besides. And it never lets up.

So when I finally realized I was indeed enjoying a magic realism novel, I thought it had to be because the author was such a good writer. Simple, fast sentences with complex nuances, floating between bear brain and publisher brain. He’s good, this guy.

Yeah, well, William Kotzwinkle wrote ET. Yes, that ET.

Two unopposable bear claws up for THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN.

The Monday Book: Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

etta-and-otto-and-russell-and-james-9781476755687_lgLet me start by saying: I don’t like magical realism. Never have, never will. By gosh and by golly, I want to know what’s REALLY happening in a book, and to whom.

So why did I like this book? Beats me.

Well, first of all, it had a good introduction: a dear friend loaned it to me. One sort of feels obligated to give things more chances than otherwise in that situation, doesn’t one? Because when I read the words “magical realism” on the back, I thought, Nah. But Teri loaned it to me. Teri has good taste.

And then I really kinda liked it. Regular readers know what a sucker I am for good characters. Etta and James are amazing. Etta is the 80+year-old heroine who starts walking east across Canada. On the way she meets up with a talking coyote named James (he only talks to her) who may or may not be there. As Etta’s fame grows by newspaper and radio account of the crazy woman walking across Canada, she and James talk more and more.

I was hooked.

Russell and Otto are Etta’s two loves, Otto her husband, Russell their mutual best friend. Except when you get to the end of the book, who is who kinda all meshes together in something that would be obscene in a French setting, but just takes a sharp dive away from reality in this Canadian one. The sparse, almost bleak writing and the sweet, sometimes sappy sentimental, sometimes bitter and scary story compliment one another.

The end is frustrating for people like me. WHO? WHAT? WHY? Ah, never mind, just enjoy the ride. Or in this case, walk. Two paws up for Etta and Otto and Russell and James, and the story they share between them.