How to Survive a Bear Attack and Selling Typewriters, in Literature
March 9, 2012 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Help me find two pieces of literature I read about thirty years ago, one a short story, the other a poem.

There were two pieces of literature I remember reading in college but now I can't remember enough details about them to find them again. The first is a poem I read in a poetry anthology. I think it may have been edited by X.J. Kennedy. The poem was a prose poem about surviving in the wilderness, and I think it included instructions for surviving a bear attack.

The second I thought was from a Flannery O'Connor story but I did some poking around in the FS&G '71 edition of compete stories and couldn't find it. All I remember was a funny line in the story where a mother was talking to someone, I think on a bus, and mentions that her son wants to be a writer. Then she says something like— "He hasn't sold any writing but he did land a job selling typewriters so that's a good start."

What are these two pieces of literature?
posted by Toekneesan to Writing & Language (9 answers total)
It's not a short story, but the typewriter bit sure sounds like something from A Confederacy of Dunces. I'm checking my copy now.
posted by jquinby at 1:06 PM on March 9, 2012

Best answer: The second one is indeed from "Everything That Rises Must Converge": “My son just finished college last year. He wants to write but he’s selling typewriters until he gets started,” his mother said.

As for the first one, there's a poem by Judith McCombs about a bear attack, but it sounds a bit different from the one to which you're referring. I know that McCombs and the Kennedys ran with the same crowd, though.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:09 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Was the "surviving in wilderness" one Jack London "To Build a Fire"?

The Flannery O' Connor is "Everything that Rises Must Converge."
posted by Jagz-Mario at 1:09 PM on March 9, 2012

Not Toole, then. Never mind.
posted by jquinby at 1:10 PM on March 9, 2012

Response by poster: Yeppers, ETRMC, is it alright. I guess I didn't dig deep enough. I remembered it more jokey than it seems now.

The poem was not London. It was poetry, but you almost couldn't tell. What I loved about it was that it felt like instructions, but the instructions were really casually intense. Something like—

Pull the bears jaw down at a 90 degree angle
Hold it there until the bear releases

But better.
posted by Toekneesan at 1:22 PM on March 9, 2012

Best answer: I'm betting you're looking for "Meeting a Bear," by David Wagoner.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:02 PM on March 9, 2012

Best answer: Actually, you might also be thinking of "Staying Alive" by David Wagoner. Possibly you've morphed the two together somehow? (No matter what, this sounds like Wagoner.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:12 PM on March 9, 2012

Best answer: Whoops--above link doesn't have the entire text of "Staying Alive." Try this.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:16 PM on March 9, 2012

Response by poster: Dlugoczaj, yes, morphed the two, that's exactly what I did. But thanks for the reintroduction. I really love those poems. It's so good to see them again.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:36 AM on March 10, 2012

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