Bear V. Shark: The Novel

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Scribner, 2001 - Fiction - 251 pages
4 Reviews
"So it's kind of like a parlor game, then?...

The question is apparently of Ancient Eastern extraction....

It seems to be a gut thing. The answer just feels right and then you come up with reasons....

Given a relatively level playing field -- i.e., water deep enough so that a Shark could maneuver proficiently, but shallow enough so that a Bear could stand and operate with its characteristic dexterity -- who would win in a fight between a Bear and a Shark?"


In this brilliant satire of our media-saturated culture, the sovereign nation of Las Vegas -- the entertainment capital of the world -- is host to Bear v. Shark II. After a disappointing loss in the first matchup between the land and the sea, the bear is back with a vengeance and out for blood. All of America is obsessed with the upcoming spectacle, so tickets are hard to come by. With an essay entitled "Bear v. Shark: A Reason to Live," young Curtis Norman wins a national writing contest and four tickets to the event. The Normans load up their SUV and embark on a road trip to Vegas.

As they head cross-country, the family is besieged by a dizzying barrage of voices: television and radio personalities, public service announcements, bear and shark pundits, Freudians, theologians, and self-published authors, in addition to the Bear v. Shark fanatics, cultists, and resisters they meet at roadside gas stations and restaurants. Overwhelmed by factoids, statistics, and ten-second debates, the Normans -- along with the rest of country -- can't seem to get their facts straight, much less figure out a way to actually communicate with one another. Sound bites and verbal tics predominate; misheard, misunderstood, andjust plain mistaken information is absorbed, mangled, and regurgitated to hilarious effect; and the most inane subjects -- from the disappearance of Dutch culture to the Shakespearean bias toward the bear -- are vigorously and obsessively debated. These meaningless exchanges of misinformation leave Mr. Norman disenchanted, world-weary, and ambivalent about the impending show, but the family eventually makes it to Vegas for an apocalyptic and surprisingly emotional ending.

Written in quick, commercial-like segments that mirror the media it satirizes, Chris Bachelder's debut is a fiercely funny, razor-sharp novel about the odd intersection of zealotry and trivia, about the barriers to human connection in a society that values entertainment above all else. Through a clever act of novelistic subterfuge, Bachelder makes us laugh at our penchant for absurd and useless information while drawing us into a dazzling spectacle of his own imagination.

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User Review  - emilyingreen - LibraryThing

A clever little book, entertaining and playful with sinister undertones. Pity it kind of lost steam for me near the end, but still one of the better pieces of dystopian lit that's come out for awhile. Read full review

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User Review  - dandelionroots - LibraryThing

Satirizes American media and culture through a family trip to the sovereign nation of Las Vegas to witness THE event. In an era when TVs no longer have off switches and saturate your environment, the ... Read full review

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About the author (2001)

Chris Bachelder is an Alumni Graduate Fellow in the M.F.A. program at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Bear v. Shark is his first novel.

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