Is the creative musician really a different manner of beast? The alto-playing, talking grizzly bear anti-hero of this dark, grudgingly appealing novel stands as a perfectly imperfect metaphor for the artist as outsider: curmudgeonly, aloof, self-absorbed, pained, misunderstood, yes, but a gifted post-bopper, surviving by dint of wit and tenacity-and talk. In this talky book “the Bear”-lone among his human friends, bandmates and lovers-analyze, kid, and worry each other ad nauseam. Occasionally dialogue quickens to hilarity, such as the band’s first leg of a bus tour, but even these acerbic pyrotechnics are verbal jams, road trash, killin’ time.
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