The hero of Smoodin's first novel is. . . a bear, a dancing bear, a dancing bear that speaks and understands and performs...

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URSUS MAJOR

The hero of Smoodin's first novel is. . . a bear, a dancing bear, a dancing bear that speaks and understands and performs for spare change on top of bars, doing ecstatic 1960s dances, the Swim and the Monkey and the Twist and the Boogaloo. But the two hippies who own this wonder-bear push him a little too far: they enter him in a humiliating bear-fight, and the bear endures it but then takes a hike and goes off on his own. His first solo adventure? At Dulles Airport he's mistaken for a rookie by a cab-ful of basketball players--they take him to practice, and he's promptly signed on to the team. When that doesn't work out, the bear hitchhikes out west and gets picked up by a rock-and-roll band; but the band later will sell the bear out to a movie producer who plans to make Mr. Bear the hottest thing on celluloid since Bambi. . . . Silly? Well, yes and no. Smoodin does make the bear lovable, especially in his helpless craving for ice-cream and his knee-jerk reaction to rock music, his intricate dancing--the amorphous, straining, be-here-now dances of the 1960s are beautifully described. And she gets off a few funny zings: the NBA expansion team is called ""The Virginia Wolves""; the rock band is ""The Ungrateful Wretches""; and when the bear visits the zoo, he suffers the pang of an ""artiste"" when seeing the inauthenticity of his caged kin. But mostly Smoodin comes through the book like a hurricane, baroque and breathless with asides and repetitions and six examples of foolishness whenever two would be plenty. Undeniably she has a comic intelligence, but, overwhelmed like this, it coagulates: her little and sweetly funny allegory seems thinner and more forlorn that it really is under all the Tom Wolfe-ian lather. Nice bear; overbearing book.

Pub Date: April 10, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980