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Support Pamelyn Casto’s text for writers: Flash Fiction: Alive in the Flicker

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Associate Editor Pamelyn Casto

A Close Reading of
“Another Bear Story” by Lorna Crozier

Read “Another Bear Story” HERE.

Exodus, Untitled Movement by Olivier Fonteau, Martinique

Combination Writing

Lorna Crozier’s “Another Bear Story” is an interesting combination piece of writing. It’s a prose poem, a fable, and a work of metafiction.

Prose Poem

Often prose poetry is written as one paragraph and Crozier writes this piece using a single paragraph. She could have used lineation, had she wished the piece to look and feel more like a poem, or she could have used more paragraphs, had she wished it to appear and feel more like a short story. Instead, she builds it as one paragraph as many prose poem writers choose to do. The piece, while set down as a prose paragraph, also has several poetry characteristics—the use of metaphor, simile, internal rhyme, euphony, irony, imagery, and more. Prose poetry often explores abstract concepts and ideas.

Fable

The piece is also something more than prose poetry. It’s also a fable, which is an invented tale. The first sentence tells readers that it’s a fable about a bear that walks out of the forest with a story. The piece ends with reference to the grizzly bear’s “huge and fabulous head.” Fabulous means “wonderful” or “marvelous,” and, historically it also means “characteristic of fables.” The moral to the fable, if there is one, Crozier leaves up to her readers.

Metafiction

The story is also metafiction, a departure from expected or accepted storytelling conventions. While much regular fiction strives to make the reader forget he or she is reading a story, metafiction reminds the reader that the piece is entirely made up. Or partially made up. Or made up as the writer goes along. Crozier’s story continually draws attention to its artificial status. Despite all the illusions and allusions, this is the bear’s story and this piece explores the relationship between storytelling, art, and reality.

Part of the Literary Tradition

The opening sentences show that this story is part of a literary tradition, part of stories that came before and stories that continue to be told. This particular bear “grew larger with a story that grew larger.”

The literary tradition also keeps mixing; past stories keep intruding into this new story. The woman’s small house is described as “floating like a covered sled abandoned by two Percherons who are part of another tale.” The abandoned sled and Percherons are mentioned but we’re told, metaphysically, they’re not part of this tale. (But ironically, they’re included in this tale.)

Same with the description of the man trudging through the snow—he’s a character from a nineteenth-century Russian novel. The man could be the hero who rescues the damsel in distress. But we’re told a man at the door is not part of this story (even though he’s mentioned).

When the woman opens the door, she can see nothing but blackness. “But the darkness seems to move, it moves in and out like an animal breathing, like the chest and belly of a grizzly bear.“

Several Things Could Happen in this Story

At this point in the story, the author tells us that several things could take place. This is part of the story’s metafiction, telling readers, as a writer constructing this fiction, what could take place. The woman could grab a gun and fire into the door. Or could discover that the gun was in an unexpected location. Or she could crouch in the corner, growing smaller and smaller, as she waits for the man.

The Bear’s Story

But we are reminded this is the bear’s story and the bear never once conjures a gun or a man. He merely waits for the woman to open the door and embrace the dark. The woman opens the door and steps right into the bear’s belly, walking into him as if he were the night. She becomes part of the story the bear has “carried from the trees, from the cave where he lay sleeping, from his huge and fabulous head.”

With this intricate short-short piece, Lorna Crozier shows she’s a fine writer in control of her art.

 

About the writer:
Pamelyn Casto
twice a Pushcart Prize nominee, has published feature-length articles on flash fiction in Writer’s Digest (and in their other publications), Fiction Southeast, and Writing World (and elsewhere). Her essay on flash fiction and myth appears in Rose Metal Press’s Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field and her 8,000-word essay on flash fiction is included in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading (4 volumes). She also has a 5,000-word article on flash fiction as the lead article in the new book Critical Insights: Flash Fiction. Subscribe to her free online monthly FlashFictionFlash newsletter (first issue published in 2001) for markets, contests, and publishing news for flash literature writers. Casto is an Associate Editor at O:JA&L. Pamelyn Casto’s new book Flash Fiction: Alive in the Flicker (A Portable Workshop), a new release from O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press, is available now on Amazon.

About the Lorna Crozier:
An Officer of the Order of Canada, Lorna Crozier has been acknowledged for her contributions to Canadian literature, her teaching and her mentoring with five honourary doctorates, most recently from McGill and Simon Fraser Universities. Her books have received numerous national awards, including the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry. The Globe and Mail declared The Book of Marvels: A Compendium of Everyday Things one of its Top 100 Books of the Year, and Amazon chose her memoir as one of the 100 books you should read in your lifetime. A Professor Emerita at the University of Victoria, she has performed for Queen Elizabeth II and has read her poetry, which has been translated into several languages, on every continent except Antarctica. Her latest books are The Wrong Cat and The Wild in You, a collaboration with photographer Ian McAllister. She lives on Vancouver Island with writer Patrick Lane and two cats who love to garden. Ms. Crozier was a Featured Writer at O:JA&L in 2017.

Image: Exodus, Untitled Movement (in French, Exode, Mouvement sans-titre) by Olivier Fonteau, Martinique. Mixed media. No size specified. By 2017. By permission. Fonteau’s image featured as focusing art for “Another Bear Story” on its O:JA&L release in 2017.

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