I have been uncomfortable about writing this post. You see, the tigresses recently finished and discussed a book that I suggested whose main theme goes way beyond the normal boundaries of decorous discussion. We read the book “Bear” by Marian Engel, and just to put all the chips out on the table, it’s a book in which the main character has sex with a bear. I’m not giving anything away here, just check out the cover.

A friend of mine from New York sent me the book with a note saying she thought I would like it. I’m still not quite sure what to make of the fact that I leaped to mind after she finished the last tantalizing page, but truthfully I really did like it. As much as it’s a story about a lady gettin’ it on with a bear, it’s also a story of a woman’s feminist awakening.

Lou, an archivist at a historical institute in Ontario is sent to a remote island to catalog the archive of an estate that has been bequeathed to the institute. Over the course of a summer, she goes through the papers of a family, uncovering their story and making “friends” with their pet bear, as she sheds the trappings of mousy librarianship and grows wilder and more sure of what it is she wants.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about “Bear” is that the bear in question is not an anthropomorphized stand in, but really and truly a bear. The reader never forgets that Lou is falling in love with an actual animal. For me, the inter-species love was disconcertingly not that disconcerting. I was happy that they had found each other, and they seemed like they were both into their affair. So who am I to judge?

That said, I was blinded to a much broader reading of the book by the overwhelming presence of bestiality. You know its going to happen from the first page, so its pretty difficult not to spend the whole time wondering when they are going to get down.

Overall, it’s a short book, a page turner, an artifact from the seventies, and definitely unlike anything else.

1 Response to “bear”

  1. 1 Justin
    May 5, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    I thought this was an excellent book, very real and visceral, fecund. Having worked as a professional archivist made many of the author’s statements on the organization of knowledge really pointed for me personally. I found those reflections to be really well founded and at times very funny/scathing (but also sort of depressing too).

    P.S. That is one heckuva cover. My edition just said: BEAR, no image.


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May 2010
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