cover image The Heavy Bear

The Heavy Bear

Tim Bowling. Wolsak and Wynn/Buckrider (IPG, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $20 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-928088-32-5

Bowling (The Tinsmith) takes readers on a zany Joycean journey through the streets of Edmonton. His protagonist, a writer named Tim Bowling, is caught between the desire to create art and the need to make money; he wakes one morning to finds that he can’t summon the courage to teach English literature to another undergraduate class. He’s obsessed and haunted by the presence of silent movie star Buster Keaton (replaced later in the book by poet Delmore Schwartz). The middle-aged, male professor with a midlife crisis isn’t the most original character, but the interplay between the imagined and the real adds freshness to Bowling’s take. The book starts slowly, with many pages of stream-of-consciousness text as Tim laments the state of the world while describing the plots of various Buster Keaton films and that actor’s battle between art and commerce. But about a third of the way in, a homeless man gives him an antique toy bank, and the story gains focus. Tim, who is much like a modern-day Leopold Bloom, starts dealing with real people. Soon, he’s on the run from the police after becoming an unwitting accomplice to the theft of a capuchin monkey. Indulgent and haphazard, the novel is nevertheless fun for readers who are patient with the slow pace in the first section. (May)