If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen this book cover floating around today:
Like any good skeptic, at first I was convinced it was a fake. A book about a woman who sleeps with a bear? C’mon. (I mean, granted, the latest trend in current-day erotica is monster sex, but let’s be serious.) A Canadian bestseller? Geez, it only needs to sell 5,000 copies to garner that particular accolade. But then I saw “Winner of the Governor General’s Award,” and I thought “quit playing, McClelland and Stewart!”
The weird thing is… this book really did win the Governor General’s Award in 1976.
A book about a woman who sleeps with a bear won Canada’s highest literary honor.
Investigating further, I discovered a podcast by Toronto comedian Sara Bynoe, in which excerpts from the book were actually read to a live audience. The podcast is called “Say Wha?!” and the premise is “We read it, so you don’t have to.” (Which is, by the way, an amazing premise for a podcast.) Audience members are encouraged to shout out “Say WHA?!” at the parts they find most unbelievable and/or unbelievably offensive.
There were a lot of “Say WHA?!”s on this episode, despite the intimate audience size.
Interestingly enough, Sara also called up the Canada Council for the Arts to ask them just who in the sam hill was responsible for choosing this smutty book for the GGs. You’ll never guess who the judges were, so I’d better just tell you:
Mordecai Richler, Margaret Laurence and Alice Munro.
Is your mind blown yet?
Mine is. I mean, I knew Montreal was a sex-crazed, porn-filming, stripper-loving Sin City of the North, but to think that all of Canada is so down with kinky sex that they chose a book about bestiality as their best novel of the year back in the 70s, well… I think Canada may be a little too kinky for me and my fragile little mind!
Seriously, though, this has given me a whole new perspective on Canadian Literature. It also raises the question: why the hell is a book featuring a sentient vibrator (as in Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers – one of my favorite books) such a shocker if books about women who fuck bears are considered treasured members of the literary canon?
What else might be lurking in the GG backlist?!
I’m almost afraid to ask.
Then again, this is good news for Canadian erotica writers, right? I mean, if you can win a GG for writing about having sex with a bear, think of all the other transgressive shit you could get away with!
Yes, this sure does open up a whole new world of possibilities. My only regret is that I’m not a Canadian and therefore can’t win a GG for my own smutty writing. Le sigh!
P.S. If you’re not boycotting Amazon, there are currently copies of Bear available starting at just $8.42. Go on. You know you want one.