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In this brilliant satire of our media-saturated culture, Las Vegas is to host a spectacle - - Bear v. Shark II. A basic question is being asked: 'Who would win if a bear got in a fight with a shark?' All of America is desperate to get a ticket but it is young Curtis Norman who, with an essay entitled 'Bear v Shark: A Reason to Live', wins a national writing contest and four tickets to the show. As he and his family head across the country, they are besieged by a dizzying barrage of TV and radio personalities, Freudians, theologians and more, as the whole country bets, debates, takes sides and argues over who is going to win. His father, Larry Norman, is having a silent crisis, and these meaningless exchanges leave him a little disenchanted and world-weary, so it is in an ambivalent mood about the impending event that he finally arrives in Vegas with his family in tow, for what turns out to be something of an apocalyptic climax.
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Chris Bachelder is an Alumni Graduate Fellow in the M.F.A. programme at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Bear V Shark is his first novel.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Bear v. Shark: The Preface
Bear v. Shark: The Novel is based on a true story.
Or, rather: It is based on a true story.
Imagine a true story. Imagine this true story in a solid, middle-class neighborhood, modest and truthful. Imagine its joists, its beams, the steady, cautious slope of its shingled roof. Imagine its crisp, righteous corners, those near-perfect 90-degree angles, knowing as you do that a perfect 90-degree angle -- like a perfect circle or a perfect butt -- doesn't really exist in the Real World, but knowing that these angles have aspired to perfection, nonetheless (or else what's a heaven for?). Imagine the clean closets, the sensible floor plan, the utter lack of luxury or flourish. Imagine that the materials are first-rate, chosen and guaranteed by men who care about doing a job right dammit. Imagine that everything checks out, yes the basement is unfinished and dank, but it's the truth, take it or leave it.
Now, imagine, based atop this monument to forthrightness and plain dealing, imagine a ramshackle unit constructed willy-nilly, catch-as-catch-can, higgledy-piggledy, all pastiched together with hyphens and the thin, colorful threads of ideas, a motley edifice, part bungalow, part high-rise, part rambler, there's stucco and brick and wood and vinyl siding, not unplanned, not unplanned, charming or interesting being the absolute best way to describe this place if you're standing on the bushwhacked front lawn of Truth, not unstable in its own right but perched upon, based on, the cautious, steady slope of the shingled roof of Truth and teetering, teetering, the whole damn situation fixing to collapse into tainted wreckage, in which wreckage lie nearly equal parts Truth and Lie, Irony and That Which Is Not Irony, such that context and purity are forever lost, and the pieces are indistinguishable.
How shall I regard that naily 2 by 4? Is it a metaplank, a superplank, a plank self-referential? A complex and ambiguous plank, and all the more so for its apparent simplicity, its garish honesty regarding its own dimensions? Has anyone even bothered to measure the
2 by 4? In short: Is this a postmodern stick?
Say, are we to look through or at that cracked window?
Linoleum: Authenticity or the death of authenticity?
Copyright © 2001 by Chris Bachelder
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