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Bear (Nonpareil Books) by Marian Engel
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Bear (Nonpareil Books) (original 1976; edition 2002)

by Marian Engel (Author)

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3652751,249 (3.55)36
Lou is a lonely librarian who spends her days in the dusty archives of the Historical Institute. When an unusual field assignment comes her way, she jumps at the chance to travel to a remote island in northern Ontario, where she will spend the summer cataloguing a library that belonged to an eccentric 19th-century colonel. Eager to investigate the estate's curious history, she is shocked to discover that the island has one other inhabitant: a bear. Lou's imagination is soon overtaken by the island's past occupants, whose deep fascination with bears gradually becomes her own. Irresistably, Lou is led along a path of emotional and sexual self-awakening, as she explores the limits of her own animal nature. What she discovers will change her life forever.… (more)
Member:Jaymeb
Title:Bear (Nonpareil Books)
Authors:Marian Engel (Author)
Info:David R. Godine, Publisher (2002), Edition: First Printing, 128 pages
Collections:Radar
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Bear by Marian Engel (1976)

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» See also 36 mentions

English (25)  Spanish (2)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Somewhat staid, understated prose, sent hurtling along by provocative plot. ( )
  eloavox | Oct 29, 2020 |
This book was better than I was expecting...even though I don't know what I was expecting, considering it's a book in which a woman has sex with a bear that was pushed to publication by Robertson Davies and then won the Governor General's award. There's a lot of conflicting information there. But, as I was reading it, I could not judge Lou for her choices. I mean, I would not have made the same choices as her, but I can't really blame her. Especially considering the bear is a smybol of...men? or her life? or something? I'm sorry, it's hard to read past the text to the subtext when the text includes a woman fondling a bear's testicles.

So Lou is an independent young woman, unattached, with a career that she kind of likes but is starting to bore her, she's in a rut, she can't make connections with men on any meaningful level, so she jumps at the chance to live on an island in the middle of nowhere for a summer cataloguing books. Only there's a bear who lives on the island with her, a pet of the previous owner of the house, and she's expected to feed the bear but not much else. She enjoys the solitude of the wilderness, and soon develops a bond with the bear, and one night, in a fit of passionate loneliness, allows the bear to, y'know, help her out. She didn't seek out the bear, she just...didn't stop him. Can you blame her? I mean there are plenty of ways for a woman to react to that which don't look like bestiality but whatever floats your boat. It was consensual anyway. Lou falls in love with the bear over the summer, because he doesn't judge her or make her feel empty. She's fully aware of the fact that he's a bear and doesn't have feelings, but love is love! In the end, while attempting to actually consummate their relationship, the bear rips her back open with his claws ('cause he's a bear, we all saw that coming) and decides that she's actually not really in love the bear anymore, and maybe she should just look for a new job to get herself out of her life rut. If it takes a bear going down on you/mauling you to figure that out, I kind of feel like you need to take a look up outside of your own self once in a while.

I actually liked this book quite a bit. The writing is good, and I think when I read it again one day I'll be able to look past the sensational bits and hear the message of the book a bit better, but I do recommend it! Unless you don't like swear words. Or bear testicles. On the other hand it is reallllly Canadian! ( )
  katebrarian | Jul 28, 2020 |
There is something so formal and restrained and lovely and lonely about this novella. Startling things happen, sure, but in such a matter-of-fact way that it hardly seems to be out of the ordinary when a human woman, somewhat late in the novella, begins to find passionate fulfillment in an erotic and increasingly risky relationship with a pet bear.

I'm overcome with delight at how Marian Engel portrayed these scenes. And I'm overcome with gratefulness at the way Engel refuses to anthropomorphize this animal: the bear remains a bear, musty and uncivilized, farting and shitting on occasion, as animals do; and the animal seems neither exploited nor surprised by his explorations of the woman's body; and the woman in turn seems to need nothing from a bear than that it be a bear.

And I come back again in my thoughts about the novella to this idea: that this is a restrained, almost genteel story. The eroticism is presented in such a matter-of-fact way that there was no discomfort or prurient revulsion or anything at all in my head as I read, except a fascination at the way this restrained writing about a bestial relationship allowed all kinds of mythological and sociological implications weave into and out of my thoughts as I read. I remembered Pasiphaë having sex with a bull, for instance. But deeper than any of these connections with mythological stories I felt a connection with bear and woman as the meeting of two extremely lonely creatures, who find solace in one another, and even, yes, love. Remarkable. ( )
  poingu | Feb 22, 2020 |
Bear is a literary erotic novel about a woman who enters into a sexual relationship with a bear. It won the Governor General’s Literary Award in 1976, and while it’s content is certainly shocking and controversial, it remains a highly praised piece, and is considered by many to be a quintessential piece of Canadian literature due to it’s use of environment and wilderness in it’s prose and narrative. Taking place deep in the forests of Ontario, it gives a rather emotionally compelling depiction of what rough life in the wild is like for many (though most probably get by with a whole lot less bear-fucking)

Read my full review on my blog: https://rosesbooks.home.blog/2020/02/14/bear-by-marian-engel/ ( )
  pixxiee | Feb 20, 2020 |
Cried in a bar. 5 stars. ( )
1 vote mirnanda | Dec 27, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Engel, Marianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Herk, Aritha VanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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"Facts become art through love, which unifies them and lifts them to a higher plane of reality; and in landscape, this all-embracing love is expressed by light."
Kenneth Clark, Landscape into Art
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In the winter, she lived like a mole, buried deep in her office, digging among maps and manuscripts.
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Lou is a lonely librarian who spends her days in the dusty archives of the Historical Institute. When an unusual field assignment comes her way, she jumps at the chance to travel to a remote island in northern Ontario, where she will spend the summer cataloguing a library that belonged to an eccentric 19th-century colonel. Eager to investigate the estate's curious history, she is shocked to discover that the island has one other inhabitant: a bear. Lou's imagination is soon overtaken by the island's past occupants, whose deep fascination with bears gradually becomes her own. Irresistably, Lou is led along a path of emotional and sexual self-awakening, as she explores the limits of her own animal nature. What she discovers will change her life forever.

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