"The Brown Bear has captured the human consciousness like nearly no other animal can. It presents an image so like ourselves that we often get caught up in the "cuteness" and forget that it is a wild animal that we are dealing with."--www.bears.org

Man o man, they sure had it right.

Marian Engel's novel Bear proves this point like nothing I've ever seen.

What Is It?

Bear is the story of Lou, a female local historian in a backwater area of Canada (i.e. not Toronto or Montreal). The historical institute that Lou works for is bequeathed a river-island estate, which they hope will hold artifacts of some historical value.

Lou is sent to catalogue the contents of the estate over the course of a summer. She finds little of any historical value, but she does find something interesting.

He's savvy.
He's seductive.
He's Bear.

Who Should Read It?

If you can stand reading about his tongue's "vertical crease" or his hoo-hoo-dilly's "cartiliginous sheath," if despite the bad prose, uninteresting characters, and a plotline as mind-numbingly cliche in its themes as it is freshly, grotesquely surreal in its details, and most of all, if you just have to know what in hell she did with a bear, then Bear is just the book for you.

Oh, The Irony

As it turns out, Marian Engel is a big lady in Canada. There is even a $10,000 annual government grant, in her name, for Canadian female authors. Not only that, but Bear won the 1976 Governor General's Award. You can check out some criticism on Bear in the Spring 1982 edition of "Canadian Literature" (that's #92).

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