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Bear v. Shark

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  874 ratings  ·  101 reviews
"So it's kind of like a parlor game, then?... The question is apparently of Ancient Eastern extraction....

It seems to be a gut thing. The answer just feels right and then you come up with reasons....

Given a relatively level playing field -- i.e., water deep enough so that a Shark could maneuver proficiently, but shallow enough so that a Bear could stand and operate with it
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 23rd 2001 by Scribner Book Company (first published 2001)
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3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  874 ratings  ·  101 reviews

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Mar 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
If you've read this, it's not as good as you think it is and you need to get over it. If you haven't, you should, because it's better than you think it will be and I think you're kind of ignorant for not giving it a shot.
MJ Nicholls
Aug 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, merkins
Round One

Who would win a fight between a young short-haired chihuahua and a pink fairy armadillo? At first, it seems like an easy win for the natural aggressor, the chihuahua, but like many of its species, the pink fairy armadillo has fantastic defence capabilities with its bony armour shell and knack for burrowing to safety in deserts. The chihuahua might paw and provoke the armadillo for several hours, while the sedentary creature remains still, waiting for the chihuahua to grind its teeth dow
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una pequeña maravilla al estílo Donald Barthelme; irreverente, lleno de humor negro, con una estructura fantástica.
Jun 03, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, american-lit
Bear V Shark was Chris Bachelder's first novel, U.S.! was his second, and reading them, you can really tell that they were written in that order. U.S.! is much more accomplished, whereas Bear V Shark, while clever, suffers from being far too one-note. It's also more bleak and depressing, eviscerating American culture—which, in a not-too-distant future where televisions no longer turn off, involves a nation that has become obsessed with a virtual fight between the titular animals—without leavi ...more
Ben Loory
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements?"
Jim Booth
Jan 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Our culture of spectacle is awful, terrible, no-good, very bad – how’s that for a newsflash…?

Chris Bachelder’s Bear v. Shark is one of those books that does what one of my teachers used to admonish his students to do: it articulates the obvious. In many cases that is a good thing, not a bad one, and this book is one of those cases.

The subject of Bear v. Shark is the devolution of American culture, and Bachelder does a decent job of articulating the horror that is our descent into trivialized ce
Dallas Crow
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The young man out-Delillos DeLillo. And, as the basketball announcers are wont to say, he can finish! I'm starting his latest, The Throwback Special, next.
Felicia Connor
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My first thoughts after finishing this book, this sort of stream-of-consciousness, punctuated-by-fictional-adverts roller coaster of a book were: "I'm not even sure what to say here." As usual, I'm employing a pass-fail reviewing method, so do take my recommendation with a grain of salt, but that said: if you enjoy dystopian fiction and social commentary, do give this a read.

I'm not entirely certain whether it's so satirical that it's hilarious, or so hilariously satirical. Either way, I think t
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I ordered this on a whim and after a couple pages I thought it was going to turn out like most of my whim books - like crap. A few pages in, it occurred to me that this was the kind of pop culture satiric overload that I'd like to avoid.
But very soon I was laughing like crazy. I was laughing until I cried. I really can't remember the last thing I read or heard or saw that was this funny. First thing I did when I finished the book was go back and read some of my favorite chapters - like, um, 29
Darrin Doyle
Nov 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I would rank this just as high as Bachelder's other novel, U.S.! Some people might have a tough time connecting to the characters, but I didn't. Best of all, though, it's funny as hell and a brilliant satire of American culture.
Lucy Coleman
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
If I could give it an extra half point I think I would give this 4.5... All in all a very intriguing pop cultural stew!
Sep 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: tried-and-failed
I only got to page 15 before I threw in the towel and gave the book away. The story begins with 3rd person prose and inanimate objects with thoughts and language. No Thanks!
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, setting-us
I came to this first book by Bachelder having absolutely loved his second (U.S.!) and mostly enjoyed his fourth (The Throwback Special). This one very much feels like a first book in all the best and worst ways -- and I'd say reading it almost twenty years after it's publication, it's more of a curiosity than anything else. If I had to guess, I'd say that as a kid, Bachelder read the mass-market pulp book "The Predators", which is about the staging of a grizzly vs. great white fight in a South A ...more
Ramón Chicharro Ramírez
Es una reseña, no un análisis literario profundo como para entrar en detalle.

¿Lo recomiendo? Sí, especialmente a aquellos que les gusten las distopías desde 1984, Un Mundo Feliz y hasta la serie Black Mirror.

Me gusta mucho el formato de la narración. Se nota que no es al azar y que juega un papel fundamental para transmitir el tema del libro. Aviso de que la historia no es especialmente rompedora (para los que esperan finales dramáticos y giros de guión). Es una historia original sobre un tema
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Given a relatively level playing field --- i.e., water deep enough so that a Shark could maneuver proficiently, but shallow enough so that a Bear could stand and operate with its characteristic dexterity --- who would win a fight between a Bear and a Shark?'

Do you even have to ask? GO TEAM SHARK!!!
Aug 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Though I liked the way that it highlighted/lampooned news and social media, I soon realized that this book was not for me.
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Weirdly profound.
Jen Sciortino
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
The second time I read it and taught it, I grew to enjoy my interaction with the book.
Doug Mckeever
Cuts a little close to home with a Huxley style dystopia in which people are screen obsessed. Predates smart phones so that whole mess isn't even included.

Pretty entertaining and a quick read.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Cercano al 3,5.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it
it was alright I guess...
Jessica Sullivan
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars
”Everything will be fine. In Las Vegas, everything will be made right. The spectacle transforms, it redeems.”

Bear v. Shark is 2016 National Book Award-nominee Chris Bachelder’s debut novel, and it is a real trip, let me tell you. An exercise in postmodernism, it draws clear parallels to Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon, Frederick Barthelme and the other big names in this literary genre.

The story revolves around one central question: who would win in a fight, a bear or a shark? I
Justin Coke
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
I see a fair amount of validity to the criticisms that it's a bit pretentious, and the basic concept of a middle aged suburbanite struggling with the spiritual deadness of modern society is one of those things that's just been done.

But, it's a pretty light and fun read, at least compared to the authors he's trying to hang with. I enjoyed it. Don't know that it's a classic, by any means, but I don't regret reading it either.
Jonathon Dyer
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Given a relatively level playing field - i.e., water deep enough so that a shark could maneuvre proficiently, but shallow enough so that a bear could stand and operate with his characteristic dexterity - who would win a fight between a Bear and a Shark?" This question is the basis for Chris Bachelder's first novel, a meditation on the nature of media saturation and its affect on family life and the individual.

That makes it sound dreary; the novel is far from it. Bear V. Shark traverses the spec
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
"Mr. Norman knows that you would want to wait until after Bear v. Shark II, of course. You could electrocute yourself easily enough, it seems. There's electricity everywhere.

A woman on the Television clutching a bag of groceries tells the reporter that sharks are, like, 90 percent teeth.

Curtis says, 'It was on the Internet. Some professor had a Web site. He turned out not to be a professor, just a fisherman who reads a lot, but I think his point about ethos still holds.'

The waitress says, 'It
Sep 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Not as good as U.S, this is is some ways maybe a more interesting book, if you like that kind of thing. I mean, it's nakedly didactic in ways the other novel is not, and it never loses sight of its end goal (or nearly never-- maybe we could no more about TeleLand or whatever it is, if people can usefully resist-- but that's a pretty minor sideline).
What makes it interesting? Well, there are these sustained and therefore more noticeable stylistic innovations-- look at "7 second delay" for examp
Ted Burke
May 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Bear V. Shark by Chris Bachelder is another very funny novel, a real self-reflective, post-modern hoot. Don't let the tag "post modern" put you off, because Bachelder gets it exactly right as he skews his target, television and the culture of Total Media Saturation. Bear V.Shark is a great, wild read for anyone who enjoyed Pastoralia or the work of Mark Leyner. There is a vaguely described though loudly trumpeted Big Event forthcoming that's precisely what the title suggests, in a future time wh ...more
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nook
Such an odd book. Great satire! Very Vonnegut in writing style, with elements of Bradbury and Orwell.

Near future America (and bordering country of Las Vegas) is bombarded with entertainment, and corporate media, through televisions that never turn off and constant commentary shows. The focus of the obsession is the next great battle of Bear vs. Shark, the most popular "reality" tv show in the two countries. The premise of the show is, given a relatively equal playing field (shallow water), who w
Chris Mah
Dec 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Chris Bachelder's debut novel is basically a rewriting of Don DeLillo's White Noise. While DeLillo was interested in dissecting the television culture of the 1990s, Bachelder picks up where he left off, and with overwhelming success.

The premise of Bear v. Shark is simple. Given an even playing field (i.e. water deep enough for a shark to swim in and shallow enough for a bear to maneuver in), who would win in a fight: a bear or a shark?

Bachelder sets out to answer this question (actually, the a
Mar 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a future society plagued by surveillance-based on-demand television, a family experiencing all the standard trappings of American life takes a roadtrip to Las Vegas in Bear v. Shark, Chris Bachelder's humorous and ultimately poignant satire. Bachelder's novel asks questions you've probably been considering: what's with the American love of reality television? How much privacy have we got left? Who's invading our homes more, the government or corporate fishing machines? And -- although perhap ...more
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Chris Bachelder is the author of Bear V. Shark, U.S.!: Songs and Stories, Abbott Awaits, and The Throwback Special. His fiction and essays have appeared in McSweeney’s, The Believer, and the Paris Review. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Cincinnati, where he teaches at the University of Cincinnati.
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