Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

A frustrated saxophonist crashes a New York City nightclub gig, beginning a reputation as a much-talked-about, mysterious figure in the jazz world. Along the way, he goes through the rigors of touring, garners a recording contract, does time in prison, and wins the love of a good woman. Pretty standard fare? Wait‘factor in that our hero is a real live walking and talking bear. Nothing wrong with that, but unlike William Kotzwinkle's recent The Bear Went Over the Mountain (LJ 6/1/96), which plays the "bear about town" scenario for laughs, first novelist Zabor asks us to take the bear's odyssey fairly seriously, expecting us to accept the bear in these situations as easily as the book's characters do. This is a shame, because Zabor's scenes of musical life are vivid and knowledgeable, and his dialog is uniformly excellent; adding that talking bear seems gimmicky and at odds with the effective reality of the work. With all this strong material, one wonders why the main character is a bear. Perhaps to sell more books? For larger fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/97.]‘Marc A. Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., Pa. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

New York's coterie of jazz musicians makes room for one large addition as a talking, thinking, alto sax-playing Kodiak bear arrives on the jazz scene in this hilarious, richly imagined bear's-eye view of love, music, alienation, manhood and humanity. The Bear and his friend Jones (who won him years earlier in a poker game) have been eking out a living through a degrading street act. Tired of that depressing circus shtick, the Bear begins sitting in with Arthur Blythe at a local jazz club. In addition to Blythe, Billy Hart, Lester Bowie, Charlie Haden, Ornette Coleman and other famous musicians become characters, and the Bear's musical ruminations bring Monk, Mingus, Parker, Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Jackie McClean prominently into the novel. After an early gig gets him shot at, locked up and experimented upon, the Bear strives to avoid publicity even while touring and recording. He struggles painfully through his changing relationship with Jones, an interspecies love affair with beautiful Iris and the strange, alternately menacing and wonderful world of humans. Drummer/journalist Zabor's invocation of jazz is impressive: far more than beguiling background noise, music is a dynamic presence in this story, central to the Bear's struggle, and Zabor's renderings of its inner dramas are daring and effective. If the romantic subplot is the weakest link in this very solid chain, the Bear's convincing interactions with Jones and the jazzmen show a shambling, cartoonish wit that recalls Pynchon at his most controlled. Best of all, the mystical, wisecracking, well-read, big-hearted, restless Bear comes vividly, enchantingly to life. First serial to Musician magazine. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

What you must understand about the Bear, who blows a mean sax, quotes Shakespeare after hours, and pursues a passionate relationship with the beautiful Iris, is that he really is a furry, four-legged bear. A startling debut novel. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

For lovers of jazz, this book exudes the ambience of music, words, and narrative all centered around a jazz musician (alto sax player) who is a man/bear replete with the best of brains/instincts of both species. Yes, that's right. Picture the bear in a man's world determined to achieve the ultimate sound. He plays the gigs, plays his way into the ultimate jazz group, and romances himself into the heart of Iris, who loves him for the man/bear he is. However, even though they sometimes border on the ludicrous, the characters and plot come off as plausible. The gigs depicted fictionally become musical essences unto themselves, thus words become music. It works because the author's knowledge of jazz is from the inside out, and his word sounds take on qualities of music sounds. Thus, the bear finally achieves his ultimate sound through the ultimate word. This novel radiates with the vitality of the jazz world. Big Nick Nicholas, recently deceased, would most certainly say, "Yeah." A book for every collection. R. E. Carlile Darton College