While reading Yoko Tawada’s Memoirs of a Polar Bear I was immediately reminded on another recent read: The Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle. Both stories involve bears which step into very human roles or interact with humans in a very human manner, but Kotzwinkle’s novel is much funnier.
in both novels the bear is involved with writing: in one the bear actually writes its memoirs but in the other a bear in the wild finds another writer’s work hidden under a tree and passes it off as his (its?) own.
Except for involvement with conferences in the early part of Memoirs, the polar bears in Tawada’s novel tend to be in realistic environments for a bear: zoos and circuses. However, in Kotzwinkle’s novel the bear is accepted into human society, dresses in custom suits, dines in fine restaurants, sits in on late-night talk shows, and even has an affair with his publicist. Although it’s all very unbear-like, the bear still recognizes the inherent difficulties of being a bear in Manhattan (like fitting into pret-à-porte)..
Memoirs of a Polar Bear is a serious work, albeit flawed; The Bear Went Over the Mountain is a lot of fun and possibly much better written. Read them both and make sure you put both authors on your near-future reading list.