Fired from his job at Phag magazine, Peter Mallory has to find a way to make a living…and get revenge! When his best friend suggests writing a book about the bear community - and using his new ursine look to go undercover at Phag - Peter is soon letting his body hair grow and practicing the fine art of flannel couture. When Peter's sabotage campaign works only too well, he starts to run the risk of discovery. With an envious fellow bear set to unmask Peter as a fraud, and a relationship with an intriguing bear on the line, things are about to get very hairy!
©2011 Jonathan Cohen (P)2013 Jonathan Cohen
I'm a fan of audiobooks and finding more and more titles from Lethe/Bear Bones and Bold Strokes has been a real joy to add some quality audiobooks to my two-plus hours of commute every day.
"Bear Like Me" works on many levels - on the surface, this is a fun and light story of a guy in way over his head: a gay clone twink type who is unjustly fired from his job at a magazine is left twisting in the wind, and his friend convinces him to go undercover into the bear community and write a book about the experience. Hijinks begin from the first confusion over "husbear" and then a second plot wrinkle enters: he has the opportunity to maybe do some sabotage to the magazine that let him go. Juggling identities, lies, sabotage and a romance that is starting with a burly bear makes life complicated, but the biggest struggle might just be realizing that the only thing better than pretending to be a bear might be actually being one.
On that fun mad-cap level alone, the story works. It's actually mildly a period piece as well, and keeping in mind the tale takes place as the internet age is dawning will also make some of the chuckles all the more amusing - I didn't get his absolute confusion about computers for a moment or two, until I realized that.
On a deeper level, though, there's more here. On his quest to investigate the bear identity, the hero also bumps into the same struggles I remember all too well from my brief foray into the bear world when I first came out: the community can be the most supportive and wonderful culture, but just like anywhere else, there are some who take the rules as permission to be exclusive and cruel. Being new (and fake), the hero of the tale gets a double-dose of that double-edged reality, and there were more than a few moments that made me want to reach in and strangle a character or two on behalf of my younger self, even as I shook my head in amusement at the antics of all involved.
"Bear Like Me" ultimately left me smiling, and I can happily recommend it - especially to anyone who didn't fit any of the molds when they first came out.
I found the narrator of this book to be very good. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about his performance. The material, on the other hand, is a different story.
I find it hard to believe that anyone who is writing for a major gay publication would have never heard of the Bear community. I live in a relatively small town in Missouri and even I have heard of the Bear community -- and I first heard about it about 10 years ago. If this book were originally written in 1992, I might have believed it more and been more forgiving.
The main character of the book seems so out of touch that I found it hard to relate to him. Elements of the book were rather enjoyable, like the store that he went to work for after leaving the magazine. Other parts, like certain stereotyped personality types, tended to throw me off to the point of not finishing the book. If you are a bear, you might even find some of the dialog off-putting. Maybe I am missing something by not finishing, but I was hoping for something more from this title.
Does this mean that you will not like this book? After looking at many of the reviews on Amazon, I'm pretty sure that I am in a minority. I think that I may be more critical than most readers/listeners. You may like it, but if you were a friend of mine asking for my opinion/recommendation, I would suggest you give this book a miss.
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