Bear (1976, 141 Pages)
Bear, published in 1976, is apparently “the most controversial novel ever written in Canada”. I think I first heard about this book in university and was probably rolling my eyes. I was like, ugh not another book where a lady fucks a bear! Just kidding, I don’t know about any other books where that happens (please send some my way if you do though). Anyway, I’ve known of this book for a while but never really been interested in reading it. Until NOW.
The synopsis: “A mousy librarian is called to a remote Canadian island to inventory the estate of a secretive Colonel whose most surprising secret is a bear who keeps the librarian company–shocking company.”
Róisín: Straight up, this book is amazing. It illustrates a specific time in Canadian history and in Canadian fiction but still feels really contemporary today. It is a lot less lurid than I was expecting and also a lot shorter (girl, I love a novella). The sex scenes are stark and almost uneventful in the context of the novel. I like how little the bear is humanized in the story and it’s not supernatural or too allegorical, which I think is what I was expecting.
Don’t believe the synopsis that calls the main character “a mousy librarian” either. Lou is a fully realised character, who just can’t help how much she loves cataloguing everything. I’m sure the combo of the cover and the romance novel blurb on the paperback drew in a lot of readers but they really don’t reflect the novel or do it justice. This lady has sex with a bear but it’s not erotica.
Kathleen: After this conversation, there was basically no way I wasn’t going to enjoy this book:
SO. DANG. GREAT. Like, there’s a lady having sex with a bear, which was obviously wonderful. But it’s also just some really beautiful solitude porn. Who doesn’t dream about disappearing to some island with a giant house with lots of windows, a big fireplace, and a library that takes up the entire top floor. Lou is great – she gets some job, travels up to this island, becomes pretty self-sufficient (growing her own food, finding mushrooms to eat on the island), and basically lives alone – other than the bear that she fucks sometimes. Who doesn’t want that?
Róisín: I love the phrase solitude porn, living the dream. I feel like, as amazing as the cover is it doesn’t do the book justice and is definitely why I stayed away for so long.
Kathleen: Honestly? Girl, if I had seen the sexy cover earlier, I would have read it sooner. All the alternate covers are soooo boring. Ugh. What is this, The Hatchet?
I HATE ALL OF THESE.
Róisín: I’ve never read The Hatchet and based on these covers, I don’t care to.
VERDICT: Should Bear be on the 30 before 30?
Róisín: 100%. Put it on there twice.
Kathleen: Heck. Yes. Take off Lullabies for Little Criminals and give us more bear sex (OH NO SPOILERS)
THURSDAY’S BOOK: Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill