Friday, January 8, 2016

Major Ursa: "The Revenant" as an Excuse to Talk About Bears



Amazon Book Review: The Revenant[The following doesn't contain spoilers, because I haven't seen the movie. However, it does contain basic information about the premise, so if you're the sort who likes to read/watch without any prior knowledge, here is an article about a Star Wars book.]

The Revenant opens today. The film, based on Michael Punke's 2015 novel, features Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, a real-life frontiersman who spent time a pirate's apprentice and a Pawnee prisoner-of-war before finding himself in a company of trappers on the Missouri River. On a scouting mission, he's viciously mauled by a grizzly, leaving him with wounds so grievous that he's left to die by his companions. As the title suggests, he doesn't, and the rest is a running, riding, river-fording, hell-bending, presumably thrilling pursuit of his betrayers. DiCaprio went full Mountain Man for the part, covering himself in skins and hair and icicles while enduring a punishing nine-month shoot in the frigid mountains of Canada and Argentina. It's going to be awesome. Did I mention there's a bear?

And so, as an ursine enthusiast, this movie caused me to reflect on some other titles that have crossed my desk and often landed on my bookshelf, alongside the volumes about wolves, Bigfoot, and backcountry madmen. Here you go. Have a nice weekend, and thanks for indulging me.


Some Notable Books About Grizzly Bears and Grizzly People

 

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Lord Grizzly by Frederick Manfred
The true story of Hugh Glass and his transformation from mountain man to the vengeance machine called Lord Grizzly. It's also the second book in Frederick Manfred's acclaimed five-volume Buckskin Man Tales series. (You read that right: Buckskin Man Tales!) See also: Here Lies Hugh Glass: A Mountain Man, a Bear, and the Rise of the American Nation.
 

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The Grizzly Maze by Nick Jans
You might remember the "bear whisperer" from ├╝ber existentialist Werner Herzog's film, Grizzly Man, which used Treadwell's own footage of his interactions with the bears of Alaska's Katmai Coast to create a head-shaking  masterpiece. Jans's book is just as engrossing, delving deeper into Treadwell's often troubled past and muddled motivations than the film, though both have the same unhappy ending.
 

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The Bear by Claire Cameron
This slim novel by occasional Amazon Book Review contributor/fellow bear enthusiast Cameron opens with a savage attack from a 300-pound black bear, orphaning five-year-old Anna (whose voice narrates the story) and her younger brother, sending them on a terrifying flight for survival through the Canadian wilderness. It's a bad camping trip, much worse than the time you gorged yourself on raw hot dogs and threw up in your friend's tent. (That's happened to everybody, right?)
 

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 Beyond the Bear: How I Learned to Live and Love Again after Being Blinded by a Bear by Dan Bigley and Debra McKinney
Nick Jans (author of the aforementioned The Grizzly Maze) says, "Beyond the Bear is far more than another 'bear chew' book; it's a compelling, finely crafted tale of survival and redemption, a worthy addition to Alaska literature." The title seems straightforward enough.
 

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Backcountry Bear Basics: The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Unpleasant Encounters by Dave Smith
Tips and tricks to keeping your bear encounters on the pleasant side, or for anyone who needs to dispel the fear of bear attacks generated by the rest of this list.
 


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