Saturday, July 13, 2013

Help! a Bear Is Eating Me!

Help! A Bear Is Eating Me!, Mykle Hansen
Read: 22 December to 25 December 2012
4 / 5 stars

I have a longstanding marital bias in favor of bears. What started out as affectionate joshing -- that my outwardly imposing and initially intimidating husband is really just a big teddy bear (which I’m sure is exactly the kind of private commentary he wants me spreading around the internets) -- has, over the years, spiraled out of control to the extent that swapping "bear" for any even remotely similar sounds (e.g.: bearriage, libeary, husbearnd, et cetera ad nauseam) is the overriding hallmark of our spousal language. So I have a certain fondness for all things ursine, which made me initially wonder how objectively I could read about some self-entitled scumbag raging against a bear whose only sin is curious hunger.

This is an unconventional little book, even by bizarro standards (and it's not even all that bizarre, really, in the sense that William Shatner doesn't make a single appearance, let alone as a dozen simultaneous incarnations). Let’s talk about it.

Its narrator, Marv Pushkin, is a designer-drug-addicted yuppie asshole (possibly an ass hole, even) who’s trapped under his luxury vehicle. Its antagonists are everyone who isn’t Marv, except for maybe Marcia from Product Dialogue, the coworker with whom Marv’s carrying on an extramarital affair; chief among those who are making life undeservedly insufferable for Marv is the titular beast (referred to as "Mister Bear" in I’m assuming a decidedly unaffectionate tone) who’s intermittently snacking on Our Hero’s lower extremities.

That’s the entire plot.

And it works. By God, does it work.

As Marv prattles on and on and on and on and on and on and on about all those who are responsible for his arrival at these most unenviable circumstances –- his mind is clearly a Rolodex of all those who have shown him just a fraction less than the full respect and awe his general mastery of the world commands –- it becomes obvious that this is a man whose identity is built upon the unshakable belief that he is better, smarter, craftier and more deserving of all the best that can have a price tag slapped on it than positively everyone else ever. The world lives to serve Marv and it should smile and wipe his ass for the privilege of playing even a minute role in his existence.

But what also emerges is a backstory that renders Marv sympathetic in a way that made me hate myself a little, first for feeling badly on behalf of such a raging douchenozzle and then for totally writing him off as a terminal jerk without stopping to consider that people like him usually are hiding oceans of personal damage beneath their vile facades. What starts out as a finger-pointing marathon necessitating an entire army of hands slowly yields to the discovery that this guy really had no other choice but to be in love with himself for survival's sake: Marv is his own biggest fan because he'd be crushed under the weight of allowing himself to become his own worst enemy.

It's a pretty neat take on Man vs. Nature, with layers of Man vs. Self slowly peeling away to a surprisingly connected, successful result.

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