“Bear is a strange and wonderful book, plausible as kitchens, but shapely as a folktale, and with the same disturbing resonance.” Those were the words of Margaret Atwood, in praise of Marian Engel’s Bear, perhaps the most celebrated work of fiction about, in part, a woman’s unquenchable lust for a bear.
We’re fond of Engel here at Hazlitt; it is the rare author who can turn the erotic coupling between Homo sapien and Ursus arctos into a best-selling winner of the Governor General’s Award for Literary Fiction.
Also, its contents are a playground for bored book designers everywhere. Like this paperback—just look at it.
“ ‘Bear,’ she cried. ‘I love you. Pull my head off.’ The bear did not, but her menstrual fever made him more assiduous. She was half afraid of him, but drunk and weak for danger.”
“She went cautiously to him. He was wriggling like a dog, trying to get comfortable. ‘Well, she said to him, ‘you’ve got your nerve.’”
“He sat down and wiggled his matted bottom against the stones. Then he moaned lightly, and put his head to drink. Finished. Looked up at her for a signal.”
“ ‘I guess it looks kind of little when it’s all curled up in the shed, but a bear’s a heavy animal. It can knock your head off with a wallop. I bet it weighs six hundred pound.’“
“She had to cajole and persuade him. She put honey on herself and whispered to him, but once the honey was gone he wandered off, farting and too soon satisfied.”