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Bear Down Bear North
2022/01/03 11:02
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Writer:

Melinda Moustakis was born in Fairbanks, Alaska and raised in California. She received her MA from UC Davis and her PhD in English and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University. Bear Down Bear North: Alaska Stories, her first book published by University of Georgia Press in 2011, won the Flannery O Connor Award and the Maurice Prize and was a 5 Under 35 selection by the National Book Foundation. The book was also a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. She was a Hodder Fellow at The Lewis Center of the Arts at Princeton University and received a 2014 National Endowment of the Arts Literature Fellowship in Fiction. Her story "They Find the Drowned" won a 2013 PEN/ O. Henry Prize.

Story:

In her debut collection, Melinda Moustakis brings to life a rough-and-tumble family of Alaskan homesteaders through a series of linked stories. Born in Alaska herself to a family with a homesteading legacy, Moustakis examines the near-mythological accounts of the Alaskan wilderness that are her inheritance and probes the question of what it means to live up to larger-than-life expectations for toughness and survival.

The characters in Bear Down, Bear North are salt-tongued fishermen, fisherwomen, and hunters, scrappy storytellers who put themselves in the path of destruction-sometimes a harsh snowstorm, sometimes each other-and live to tell the tale. While backtrolling for kings on the Kenai River or filleting the catch of the Halibut Hellion with marvelous speed, these characters recount the gamble they took that didnt pay off, or they expound on how not only does Uncle Too-Soon need a girlfriend, the whole state of Alaska needs a girlfriend. A story like "The Mannequin at Soldotna" takes snapshots: a doctor tends to an injured fisherman, a man covets another mans green fishing lure, a girl is found in the river with a bullet in her head. Another story offers an easy moment with a difficult mother, when she reaches out to touch a breaching whale.

This is a book about taking a fishhook in the eye, about drinking cranberry lick and Jippers and smoking Big-Z cigars. This is a book about the one good joke, or the one night lit up with stars, that might get you through the winter.

 

Highlights vs self- reflection:

1. p.13:The days are long and thin. The salmon keep to the shallows near rotting trees. With reaching fingers, the Kenai tugs at their tails, drawing

them to the channel. The salmon wrestle the water, tap their last beats

of blood, and when the river wins, they drift and fodder downstream.

Their bodies are carried, broken, and fed to the currents.

2. p.13:The Kenai is a vein of turquoise, clear and glass and settled. The river

cradles the island in its arms, lullabies the trees. It’s not day or night

or morning and the doctor is still awake, sitting near an unlit camp-

fire, and across the river a fisherman throws his line—cast, drift and

follow, cast.

Golden Sentence:

1.The sun slips from the ledge and dissolves into the mountain

Conclusion:

1.This is a book about taking a fishhook in the eye, about drinking cranberry lick and Jippers and smoking Big-Z cigars. This is a book about the one good joke, or the one night lit up with stars, that might get you through the winter.( r.2)

2. It gave me the feeling of being like a tourist in Moustakiss life. I was learning what it might feel like to be somewhere so "opposite" to the life I lived growing up.(r.3)

3. we are fish or fish our us?

4. hotch potch story

5.p.15: “He shoots close tohear her scream. And then he shoots her in the back. She crawls and aims for the trees. When he walks up to her, she moans. To him, it is

the same sound that the bears make.” –life ia life, whether in a cat or dog or man. There is no difference there between a cat or a man. The idea of difference is a human conception for man’s own advantages-Sri Aurobindo

6.What’s the difference between salmon and mannequin? We see from our own advantages or from the universe?

 

 

Questions by Clive:

Summary for January Book Club

Bear Down, Bear North, Melinda Moustakiss 2010 Flannery OConnor Award winning debut is formally inventive, yet, as the subtitle "Alaska Stories" suggests, strongly rooted in place. I think what makes Moustakiss collection distinctly place-based, is not just that the stories take place in Alaska, a terrain not well covered by contemporary literature, but because the characters and situations she creates are unique to Alaska. What I mean is that her characters act and react the way they do because they are from a distinct place. Had they come from somewhere else, they wouldnt be who they are. The place, and their experiences in it, shapes who they are. Moustakiss characters could exist somewhere else, but something essential about them would have to change. Its hard to pinpoint this exactly, but I think after taking in the collection as a whole, one gets the sense that these characters are as unique as the Alaska they call home.

In Bear Down, Bear North, Moustakis plays with the form in many of her stories. When I saw that the collection opened with a flash piece, "Trigger," I wasnt all that excited. I wondered why a writer would begin her relationship with the reader with a piece of flash fiction. Then I read the story and realized exactly why Moustakis opened the collection with "Trigger" - its a damn good story, and it provides a perfect opening, thematically and stylistically, for the collection. "The Mannequin in Soldotna," a story about how a doctor places fishhooks in a mannequin in the places where her patients have been hooked, is a fractured narrative that is sectioned off with different subheadings. It takes some getting used to, but Moustakis uses a similar structure in "This One Isnt Going to be Afraid," "They Find the Drowned," and most effectively, I think, in "The Last Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show."

Even in Moustakiss more "traditionally" structured stories, she uses page breaks to signify jumps in time or to switch points of view. This certainly isnt anything new but Moustakis has a deft hand at this and pretty much everything she does in this collection.

The collection is linked by two story lines - the first begins with "The Weight of You," and through the course of "Miners and Trappers" and "The Last Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show," follows siblings Gracie and Jack and their respective families and how theyve come to deal with Jacks drinking and erratic behavior. Each of these stories is told in the second person from Gracies point of view. Sometimes the second person can feel gimmicky, but in this case I think it works wonderfully.

The second storyline, what could is arguably the "main" story line because of it contains more stories, deals with an extended family through two generations, and begins in "Us Kids," a story told from a first person plural narrator, and continues through "This One Isnt Going to be Afraid," "Point MacKenzie," a story told from multiple points of view, each child from "Us Kids" getting a chance to narrate, even Rais, who is deaf and mute, and Kitty, who is only a toddler, "Bite," "Some Other Animal," a story about Kittys daughter dog sitting for a couple who owns a team of malamutes, and ends with "What You Can Endure," a story about the daughter of one of the children in "Us Kids" told in fragments that mirror the daughters fragmented knowledge about her mothers childhood. Its an excellent story with an image at the end that truly resonates - Im still thinking about it.

If I had to find something to critique about this collection it would be that Moustakis falls back on a similar fractured/sectioned structure in one too many stories. I think it works wonderfully in nearly every story but "They Find the Drowned." In this one, the structure didnt seem to be in service of the story. This was the weakest story in the collection for me, and I think the structure didnt help.

Questions for January Book Club Meeting.

Bear Down, Bear North

 

1.      The author seems as interested in sounds as much as sights of Alaska. Why?  How does this influence the stories?

2.      Alaska is a character in these stories and Alaska seems to have a voice.  Setting matters to the author but why?  How does it influence the stories.

3.      One of the characters, Jack, in the story “The Weight of You,” tells his sister, Gracie, “Alaska’s in your blood.”  Can places get “in your blood?” 

4.      We see elements of family life that may be unique to life in difficult places.  Does a difficult place change families? 

5.      The challenge for any good short story is that they require skill and precision in story telling. Do you think these stories are successful?

6.      Americans are gifted at myth-making and Alaska is a magical place to create myths.  Do other countries have that element of myth-making in their literature? 

7.      The mother/daughter relationship seems to be highlighted in these stories.  Is this relationship  the unbreakable bond?  Is it different between father and son and mother and son relationships?

8.      Fishing seems to almost be Alaskan therapy.  What is sport or activity that drives Taiwan?

 

1/3/2022  Bear Down Bear North

Melinda Moustakis was born in Fairbanks, Alaska and raised in Bakersfield, California. She received her MA from UC Davis and her PhD in English and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University. Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories, her first book, won the 2010 Flannery OConnor Award in Short Fiction.

..this slim volume delivers a powerful look into the lives of three generations and how an unforgiving environment wears them down as they grow ... Moustakis finds a way to make the typical story format of swinging back and forth from present to past seem inventive ... Moustakis wisely avoids painting Alaska as a frontier to be discovered. Instead, she creates infinite and unflinching wilderness, families reduced to animal instinct fighting to survive even as they perpetuate the cycles they struggle to break. Each story burrows deeper into the families, creating stronger links, binding the stories together in a powerful, cohesive structure that gleans new details at every turn and makes them feel valuable ...

Reference data about Alaska:

On March 30, 1867, the United States reached an agreement to purchase Alaska from Russia for a price of $7.2 million.

Alaska is famous for salmon, moose, caribou, bears, whales, bison, puffins, jellyfish, etc. When it comes to scenery, Alaska is famous for glaciers and fjords, mountains, and more lakes, rivers, and waterways than one could dream of.

Alaska has the lowest population density in the nation at one person per square mile.

The aurora borealis (northern lights) can be seen an average of 243 days a year in Fairbanks , Alaska. The northern lights are produced by charged electrons and protons striking the earth’s upper atmosphere.

The average high temperature for Fairbanks in the month of January is 1 degree, the average low is 17 degrees below zero

Alaska is the only state that does not collect state sales tax or levy an individual income tax (some cities have sales tax, however).

Alaska produces more than 60% of the commercial fisheries in the U.S. Five species of salmon, four species of crab, cod, shrimp, halibut and more are harvested in Alaska.

As salmon grow in the ocean environment, they accumulate marine nutrients, storing them in their bodies. They then transport those nutrients back to their stream of origin when it is their time to spawn, die and decay. Salmon release their eggs and milt back into the freshwater to re-seed the cycle.  

 

Summary for January Book Club

Bear Down, Bear North, Melinda Moustakiss 2010 Flannery OConnor Award winning debut is formally inventive,

yet, as the subtitle "Alaska Stories" suggests, strongly rooted in place. I think what makes Moustakiss collection distinctly place-based, is not just that the stories take place in Alaska, a terrain not well covered by contemporary literature, but because the characters and situations she creates are unique to Alaska. What I mean is that her characters act and react the way they do because they are from a distinct place. Had they come from somewhere else, they wouldnt be who they are. The place, and their experiences in it, shapes who they are. Moustakiss characters could exist somewhere else, but something essential about them would have to change. Its hard to pinpoint this exactly, but I think after taking in the collection as a whole, one gets the sense that these characters are as unique as the Alaska they call home.

In Bear Down, Bear North, Moustakis plays with the form in many of her stories. When I saw that the collection opened with a flash piece, "Trigger," I wasnt all that excited. I wondered why a writer would begin her relationship with the reader with a piece of flash fiction. Then I read the story and realized exactly why Moustakis opened the collection with "Trigger" - its a damn good story, and it provides a perfect opening, thematically and stylistically, for the collection. "The Mannequin in Soldotna," a story about how a doctor places fishhooks in a mannequin in the places where her patients have been hooked, is a fractured narrative that is sectioned off with different subheadings. It takes some getting used to, but Moustakis uses a similar structure in "This One Isnt Going to be Afraid," "They Find the Drowned," and most effectively, I think, in "The Last Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show."

Even in Moustakiss more "traditionally" structured stories, she uses page breaks to signify jumps in time or to switch points of view. This certainly isnt anything new but Moustakis has a deft hand at this and pretty much everything she does in this collection.

The collection is linked by two story lines - the first

begins with "The Weight of You," and through the course of "Miners and Trappers" and "The Last Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show," follows siblings Gracie and Jack and their respective families and how theyve come to deal with Jacks drinking and erratic behavior. Each of these stories is told in the second person from Gracies point of view. Sometimes the second person can feel gimmicky, but in this case I think it works wonderfully.

The second storyline, what could is arguably the "main" story line because of it contains more stories, deals with an extended family through two generations, and begins in "Us Kids," a story told from a first person plural narrator, and continues through "This One Isnt Going to be Afraid," "Point MacKenzie," a story told from multiple points of view, each child from "Us Kids" getting a chance to narrate, even Rais, who is deaf and mute, and Kitty, who is only a toddler, "Bite," "Some Other Animal," a story about Kittys daughter dog sitting for a couple who owns a team of malamutes, and ends with "What You Can Endure," a story about the daughter of one of the children in "Us Kids" told in fragments that mirror the daughters fragmented knowledge about her mothers childhood. Its an excellent story with an image at the end that truly resonates - Im still thinking about it.

If I had to find something to critique about this collection it would be that Moustakis falls back on a similar fractured/sectioned structure in one too many stories. I think it works wonderfully in nearly every story but "They Find the Drowned." In this one, the structure didnt seem to be in service of the story. This was the weakest story in the collection for me, and I think the structure didnt help.

 

Questions for January Book Club Meeting.

Bear Down, Bear North

1. The author seems as interested in sounds as much as sights of Alaska. Why?  How does this influence the stories?

2. Alaska is a character in these stories and Alaska seems to have a voice.  Setting matters to the author but why?  How does it influence the stories.

3. One of the characters, Jack, in the story “The Weight of You,” tells his sister, Gracie, “Alaska’s in your blood.”  Can places get “in your blood?” 

4. We see elements of family life that may be unique to life in difficult places.  Does a difficult place change families? 

5. The challenge for any good short story is that they require skill and precision in story telling. Do you think these stories are successful?

6. Americans are gifted at myth-making and Alaska is a magical place to create myths.  Do other countries have that element of myth-making in their literature? 

7. The mother/daughter relationship seems to be highlighted in these stories.  Is this relationship the unbreakable bond? Is it different between father and son and mother and son relationships?

8. Fishing seems to almost be Alaskan therapy.  What is sport or activity that drives Taiwan?

 

Related Reading:

1.Melinda:https://www.amazon.com/Melinda-Moustakis/e/B0052PIRRQ%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

2.reiview: https://ugapress.org/book/9780820344904/bear-down-bear-north/

3.review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/773267705

4.Soldotna: https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%B4%A2%E5%B0%94%E5%A4%9A%E7%89%B9%E7%BA%B3_(%E9%98%BF%E6%8B%89%E6%96%AF%E5%8A%A0%E5%B7%9E)

5. Skilak lake:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skilak_Lake

6.Kenai: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenai,_Alaska

 January Meeting Summary by Clive

Bear Down Bear Out

Leader: MingLi

 

 

January’s discussion was a vibrant and energized discussion about a debut collection of short stories by Melinda Moustakis.  MingLi led the discussion and all of the members participated.  The discussion was able to bring to life a rough-and-tumble family of Alaskan homesteaders through a series of linked stories.  We were able to examine the near-mythological accounts of the Alaskan wilderness and we discussed the ideas of mythology and what it means of what it means to live up to larger-than-life expectations for toughness and survival.  Lydia was interested in the idea that many of the stories left readers without any conclusion and Lily and Carol also found this idea interesting but viewed the stories differently.  Perhaps this is what made the discussion so lively.  Each story offers the reader the chance to interpret things their own way.

The characters in Bear Down, Bear North are salt-tongued fishermen, fisherwomen, and hunters, scrappy storytellers who put themselves in the path of destruction-sometimes a harsh snowstorm, sometimes each other-and live to tell the tale. We found their lives hellish and scary but also fascinating.  There is a remarkable amount of imagery that kept us fascinated as readers and members. Emma made the connection between the characters and salmons and how they always find their way back no matter what.  For those who had been to Alaska as tourists, this collection of stories offered a very different insight into the real lives of people who live there.  For those of us who read these stories, we all agreed the voice of the author is unique, powerful and gave the readers with an exciting viewpoint.  This is the sort of collection of stories that you can read more than once and still find something new.  Thank you to all the members who attended, especially at such a busy time of the year, and our two telephonic participants, MingLi and Lily. 

 

Jan, Meeting  Review & Feb. Activity:

 

Thank you for Minglis wonderful & attentive lead for our Jan. Book, and we greatly appreciate Clives insightful review report for us.

 

Feb. Activity:

Purpose: Birthday Party

Place: 2nd floor, Dim Sum Restaurant, Ambassador Hotel, 國賓大飯店, 高雄市民生二路202

Time: 12 noon, Feb. 7, 2022

 

We look forward to seeing you soon.

 

January Meeting Summary by Clive

Bear Down Bear Out

Leader: MingLi

 

 

January’s discussion was a vibrant and energized discussion about a debut collection of short stories by Melinda Moustakis.  MingLi led the discussion and all of the members participated.  The discussion was able to bring to life a rough-and-tumble family of Alaskan homesteaders through a series of linked stories.  We were able to examine the near-mythological accounts of the Alaskan wilderness and we discussed the ideas of mythology and what it means of what it means to live up to larger-than-life expectations for toughness and survival.  Lydia was interested in the idea that many of the stories left readers without any conclusion and Lily and Carol also found this idea interesting but viewed the stories differently.  Perhaps this is what made the discussion so lively.  Each story offers the reader the chance to interpret things their own way.

The characters in Bear Down, Bear North are salt-tongued fishermen, fisherwomen, and hunters, scrappy storytellers who put themselves in the path of destruction-sometimes a harsh snowstorm, sometimes each other-and live to tell the tale. We found their lives hellish and scary but also fascinating.  There is a remarkable amount of imagery that kept us fascinated as readers and members. Emma made the connection between the characters and salmons and how they always find their way back no matter what. 
For those who had been to Alaska as tourists, this collection of stories offered a very different insight into the real lives of people who live there.  For those of us who read these stories, we all agreed the voice of the author is unique, powerful and gave the readers with an exciting viewpoint.  This is the sort of collection of stories that you can read more than once and still find something new.  Thank you to all the members who attended, especially at such a busy time of the year, and our two telephonic participants, MingLi and Lily. 

 

Jan, Meeting  Review & Feb. Activity:

 

Thank you for Minglis wonderful & attentive lead for our Jan. Book, and we greatly appreciate Clives insightful review report for us.

 

Feb. Activity:

Purpose: Birthday Party

Place: 2nd floor, Dim Sum Restaurant, Ambassador Hotel, 國賓大飯店, 高雄市民生二路202

Time: 12 noon, Feb. 7, 2022

 

We look forward to seeing you soon.

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2樓. Karina
2022/02/25 10:01
This is a fantastic tale! I'd want to learn how to write like you or the authors at Best Writers Online, so please provide me some tips. Their approach to creating the most honest evaluations of the top writing services is one that I truly appreciate. Their evaluations are usually very in-depth and truthful in nature.(brooks4553@gmail.com )
Dear Karina: this is our book club's sharing, all the people brainstorm really helps! welcome to our Kaohsiung English Reading Club! Bifröst Kærlighed2022/02/25 14:25回覆
1樓. Sir Norton 狼人或臘腸狗
2022/01/07 14:15

Would you consider rewriting it into a short paragraph in Chinese? It is because UDN readers seldom use English and are likely to appreciate a more concise writing.

Other than that, you recapped the ideas reasonably well.   

Dear Pro. Norton:

i understood it's a junk for you guys to read

. actually, it's my note for reading. 

i never thought people will ever pay attention to it

and you are such a great person want to read and give me suggestions . it's very kind of you. thank you again for your generous heart , best regards to you !

Bifröst Kærlighed2022/01/08 21:24回覆
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