The hero of Rafi Zabor's first novel is an alto saxophone virtuoso trying to evolve a personal style out of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman. He also happens to be a walking, talking, Shakespeare-and Blake-quoting bear whose keen sense of irony protects him from the double loneliness of the artist and animal in an underappreciative metropolis.The scion of a long line of European circus bears (and the product of an amazing roll of the genetic dice), the Bear, when we first meet him, is eking out a living doing a routinely humiliating street dancing art with his friend and keeper, Jones. But what the Bear is really best at -- besides making himself cosmically miserable -- is playing the alto with his world-calls set of chops. One day he makes a bold foray from their apartment to jam with Arthur Blythe and Lester Bowie -- real-life musicians rub elbows with fictional counterparts throughout the novel -- at a New York club, thus beginning a musical and romantic odyssey. A nightclub bust followed by long dark nights of the soul in New York City's dankest jail. Freedom, a recording contract, underground fame, a road tour that is alternately hilarious, scary, ridiculous, and inspiring. A vexed, physically passionate, and anatomically correct interspecies love affair with a beautiful woman named Iris. And, finally, a triumphant return to a jazz club inside the Brooklyn Bridge, where the Bear plays a solo where it all comes together for him, and blows him all the way back home.
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Published July 1, 1997
by W. W. Norton & Company.
Literature & Fiction.