Aquatic subterranean polar bear
May 26, 2012 3:56 AM   Subscribe

I read an odd (and very stupid) novel around 1997. Please verify that this book exists and wasn't a product of my young addled mind.

The protagonist was a middle aged man with an ailing marriage. In an unlikely sequence of events he was targeted by an unlikely group of satanist (?) bikers (?) for human sacrifice. As an equally unlikely result he ends up trapped in a underground cavern and forced to survive there for months. Subterranean aquatic polar bears are involved. The end of the novel has him reconciled with his nasty wife who is cured of her nastiness by his survival and aquatic bear manliness skills.

I swear I am not making this crap up and I have tried to google it to no avail. I admit that my brain may have embellished it. I vaguely remember a reference to"The World According to Garp" on the dust jacket, but neither John Irving or Steve Tesich seem remotely responsible. I do have a habit of conflating John Irving with John Updike so my memory is definitely suspect.
posted by arha to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
When you say 'young', do you mean kid/teen or 20's? I guess the better question is are you looking for a YA novel?
posted by Partario at 4:34 AM on May 26, 2012

It sounds vaguely like one of Tom Robbins' quirkfests, but no specific matches are coming to mind.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:36 AM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

This almost sounds like some mixed-up memories of The Ark Sakura by Kobo Abe.

Abe's first novel in eight years -- an allegorical fantasy at once Kafkaesque, funny and apocalpytic -- dazzles even when it may confuse. The principal character, nicknamed Mole, has converted a huge underground quarry into an "ark" capable of surviving the coming nuclear holocaust and is now in search of his "crew." He falls victim, however, to the wiles of his first crew members, a con man-cum-insect dealer and his two shills, one of them a pretty young woman. In the surreal drama that ensues, the ark is invaded by a gang of youths and a sinister group of elderly people called the Broom Brigade, led by Mole's odious father, while Mole gets his leg trapped in the ark's central piece of equipment, a giant toilet powerful enough to flush almost anything, including chopped-up humans, out to sea. Abe (The Woman in the Dunes, The Box Man), generally considered Japan's leading novelist, is a literary magician with a very special bag of tricks. Among them is a deadpan matter-of-factness that gives his chilling vision of human destiny much of its impact.

Kobo Abe is a world-ranked novelist, and a comparison to Irving/Garp seems not impossible on a dustjacket, although many would consider it an imbalanced comparison (favoring Abe). He is more likely to be linked with other international metafictional authors such as Calvino, Borges, or Moravia.
posted by dhartung at 2:01 PM on May 26, 2012

Response by poster: It was an adult novel, read it in my early twenties. Not Kobe Abe either, but now I really want to read that book, dhartung.

It was set in either North America or Britain if that helps.
posted by arha at 3:19 PM on May 26, 2012

Best answer: After an intensive search, I bring you................................... The Skook, by JP Miller!

If this rather wacky sounding book is not the one you seek, then my mind will be seriously blown. I found it after looking on several sites and coming around to Novelist Plus, which is where I really should have started my search. Because I work at a library, I figured it was justifiable research for a patron, of a kind.

Here's a link to the Kirkus review as found on Novelist Plus. If that link doesn't work without a proper library card number, perhaps this brief synopsis will suffice: Fleeing from a motorcycle gang, alienated, middle-aged Spanish Barrman escapes into a hidden cave and finds himself entombed in an underground labyrinth inhabited by the wondrous Skook.

posted by but no cigar at 5:20 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow. That's it. Thanks but no cigar, that's been bugging me for years. People seem to have a better opinion of it than I had, but I don't know I'll be rushing out to re-read it.

And not The World According to Garp but Days of Wine and Roses. Stupid Brain.
posted by arha at 6:42 PM on May 26, 2012

Huzzah! I've had several books and songs haunt me over the years, so I well understand that itch that needs scratching, so to speak. Novelist Plus rules!
posted by but no cigar at 8:51 PM on May 26, 2012

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