For the first Break Book Club selection we take a look at a 1976 novel written by Canadian author Marian Engel and rediscovered by a sharp eyed user on Imgur. “Bear” is billed as a “shocking erotic novel.” Now you might be familiar with the “bear community” of large hairy men who like to have sex with each other. This is definitely not what “Bear” is about.
Engel’s work simply titled “Bear” has a pretty provocative cover with a topless woman wearing a blood soaked dress. Perhaps she is being mauled by the animal and fighting for her life? Nope. It turns out this story is about a woman who is really into hairy dudes. Real hairy dudes.
Maybe this woman is a hipster, into Furry Fandom way before it was cool. (“Cool” is a strong word, but you know what I mean.) As it turns out, “Bear” is in fact about a woman who has a sexual relationship with an actual bear. Great now we have to worry about bears taking our women.
That blood soaked dress? Not from being mauled by the bear, but rather it is her menstrual blood, used to attract the ferocious beast for a romantic rendezvous. This was written in the 70’s with some overtones of some kind of female empowerment agenda. Who needs a man when a real, strong woman can go out in the woods and bag a frickin’ bear?
FYI, this was the best thing that comes up when you Google “erotic” + “bear” photos.
The writer, Marian Engel was not a hippie smut peddler, writing bear porn ramblings in a Quaalude induced haze. Rather she was a college professor and a member of the Toronto Public Library Board of Trustees where she also founded the Writers’ Union Of Canada. Turns out the Writers Union of Canada was cash strapped, and instead of demanding everyone pay union dues, Engel thought a good way to raise funds was through publishing “erotic novels from serious writers.” Finally unions do something useful!
This union saving project led her to writing a novel about a librarian who spends time on remote Cary’s Island in Ontario where, while working on Colonel Cary’s personal library, she reads up on Native American bear folklore. Apparently there is some hot stuff in bear folklore as this leads her to slowly begin a sexual relationship with Colonel Cary’s pet bear. Given that a librarian is the main character who loves to play with bear balls, I think the author herself might have had a particular fondness for The Muppet Show which came out the same year that “Bear” was released.
Sadly the author did not have any follow up publications in the bear erotica genre before she died in 1985, I was hoping “Bear” was part of a trilogy. Here is a steamy alternative cover:
Regardless of the hot bear on librarian action, the best part of the book is that on the cover it boasts it is the winner of “The Governor General’s Award” an actual prestigious award given to Canadian authors each year since 1937. In 1976 the Governor General of Canada was Jules Léger who read a book about a nice Canadian girl getting the business from a bear and thought to himself: “I’m going to tell all of Canada this is a must read!”
We couldn’t agree more with Governor General Leger, pictured above. That is why we are also giving “Bear” the Break WTF Award and adding it to our must read list! You can read a free sample of the book here. Please discuss in the comments, your thoughts about the Break Book Club selection. Carl, if you could please begin the discussion while I get the cheese platter from the kitchen.
Follow Phil Haney on Twitter @PhilHaney