is talkin' Bear v. Shark
by BCR #2 hero
In October 2004, I picked up the pre-election issue of The Believer. In that issue, in an article entitled “A Soldier Upon a Hard Campaign,” Chris Bachelder waxed philosophical on political and satiric writing, on the admirable zeal and regrettable prose of Upton Sinclair, and on the prescience of E.L. Doctorow. He also offered some unflinching self-critique of Bear V Shark, his first novel.
The book follows the Normans, archetypal American family extraordinaire, on a road trip to the sovereign nation of Las Vegas to witness Bear V Shark II, a bigger-than-1000-superbowls sort of event. The first time around the shark won, but rather than providing a conclusive answer to the age-old question (given a level playing field, who would win in a fight...), bear-backers have vowed revenge and once again it will all go down at The Darwin Dome. The Normans won free tickets when their son, Curtis, won an essay contest with an entry titled "Bear V Shark: A Reason to Live." Of this novel, Bachelder wrote “a satire first published late in 2001, [it] has faded quietly out of print after a pretty modest circulation run and disappointing sales here in the USA.” Toward the article’s end he wrote that the book seemed to him now “in fact, as disposable and ephemeral as the popular culture it derides.”
Chris, needless to say, is completely wrong about this. The book is fantastic (review 1 review 2
) and damn near indispensible. It's a shame the book hasn't received wider recognition than it's received thus far; it seems to me to be almost entirely a matter of bad timing. I hope that changes as time goes on. (via Rake's Progress