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I just finished Clifford Chase’s first novel, Winkie and I have to tell everyone about it. It’s amazing. Further it is short enough and engaging enough that I finished almost the whole thing on a vacation in Las Vegas. Yep, a book cool enough to compete with the strip and the mild terror I feel when the plane hits turbulence.

The basic premise is this, a teddy bear named Winkie is accused of terrorism. You read that right. It starts off with a rather “theatre of the absurd” vibe but instead of making the point that life lacks meaning we get the exact opposite. As we follow Winkie through his story, we find that his life gains meaning in it’s tragedy.

After decades of children loving and then betraying him, Winkie uses their love and his pain to will himself to life. He leaps from his dusty, neglected shelf and heads to the woods to be a real bear. After an idealic time in the lush Eden of the forest Winkie’s luck ends. He comes across a reclusive professor who has been mailing bombs to his enemies around the country. While at the cabin one day the FBI and SWAT team swarm the area and take the bear into custody for being the evil mastermind behind everything from terrorism and treason to blasphemy, witch craft, and corrupting the youth of Athens.

The novel draws heavily from the humanities, bringing in elements of philosophy, theology, history, and theory. If, like me, you picked up a BA in a humanity or a social science this book is for you. It moves from achingly silly, to touching, to thought provoking as it reflects on the condition of being, rebellion and revolution, media, post 9/11 anxieties, the body, and the soul.

The idea that teddy bears make us better people or show children how to be people is not new. In the case of Winkie, I think even the story of a stuffed bear can teach us again to be better people.