Sid Marty, Black Grizzly etc

A short note, for a few reasons. First, I'm badly sleep-deprived due to conference organization duties, and second, I don't have the nice things that I would to say about Sid Marty's Governor-General's Award-nominated Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek.

Terry Glavin's a favourite writer of mine, and he loved this book (on his blog, in Canadian Geographic, and as a GG judge this year). I tend to think of GG-nominated books as worthy, even when I don't find their subject congenial, but this one ... the subject is distinctly congenial, but I just didn't enjoy the writing here at all.

To me it veers between imaginative creative nonfiction, with reasonable justification for imagining the thought processes of a couple of bears, and fairly clumsy (and overly long-form) journalism. I mean, the cumbersome references to interview dates got old quickly, and the shifts between perspectives and modes were never smooth. Great subject, and I know Marty spent a lot of time on this book, but I don't see much sign of artistry as such. His earlier book Leaning on the Wind remains close to my heart, though, so maybe part of my reaction comes from being just a little resentful that he didn't give me what he did there.

But I don't think that's the whole story. For whatever reason, Marty kept three stories distinct (the attacks, his reaction to them, and his subsequent research 20 years later), and there's no obvious signal for what that reason might be.


I have to disagree as this is an attempt to show how a bear thinks and Sid has done this well. This book is not for the faint of heart and shows that a simple hike through the woods can end up in tragedy.
I look forward to my next hike in the Canadian Rockies with a better understanding of bears. I look forward to your next book Sid. Thanks a lot.
Recycled sixties.
richard said…
How did I miss this comment?

I agree that Marty has provided useful information, and I did say that the creative nonfiction aspect (ie, inside the bear's head) works pretty well. For me, though, the book's journalistic elements were much less successfully handled than they had been in some of his previous work. If he'd handled the journalism with the same panache as he did the imaginative work, then I would have been happier. As it stands, the book just doesn't work out for me.
Pam said…
One of my favourite books ever.

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