Brian Doyle: Man of the Hour

20 Sep

In the rear view mirror I sometimes wonder if my enthusiasms get the best of me. For instance, this year among the writers and books I have energetically championed are Brian Doyle’s novel Mink River (Oregon University Press) and his story collection Bin Laden’s Bald Spot(Red Hen Press). I added Mink River to my preemptive list of 2011’s Best Books and his story collection to what The Daily Beast entitled “Best Debuts of the Fall

Under the rubric One-can’t-do-enough-for-the-insufficiently-acknowledged, here’s a previously unpublished little bon-bon courtesy of Mr. Doyle. I am, at this moment, still a believer:

Adultery: a Note

This whole adultery thing sounded interesting, so I went down to the adultery store to browse around, just looking, you know how you are just mumbling along gazing at the shelves while humming something that might be from South Pacific, how did that get in your head, and a surly creature with unfortunate sideburns always mutters can I help you? in that exasperated tone not because he wants to help you but because the manager who looks like a dentist on acid is lurking, and you say politely no thanks just looking but what you really want to say is my god your head looks a badger!, or pull up your pants, I can see your badgers! but you don’t say that? Well, I did say that, because his head looked exactly like a badger, and his pants were covering nothing but his ankle-bones, so there was a kerfluffle, a word I have always wanted to use at the end of a paragraph, and here it is!
The great moral problem with adultery, of course, is decent parking. Do you have to take shuttle buses? Because that never works out, no matter what system you employ, bullhorns or color-coded lines with their fluttering tags, or special stamped passes, because without fail someone’s car gets trapped in the church parking lot, and if you have never negotiated egress with a deacon, then the terrorists have won.
Another problem with adultery is dietary restrictions, which can be immensely complex if a rabbi is not present. With summer adultery, for example, is a dense red wine acceptable? Very rarely will it be the case where you can look up from the seething pit of sinfulness and say, Rabbi, a gewürztraminer here, what do you think? and he says, in that pedantic voice we know too well, the voice he uses sometimes when he is thinking of hockey, or chorus girls, you know, the voice with the droning timbre in it like someone we know has been smoking dried bumblebees all morning instead of applying himself to his supposedly pressing studies, What, with rabbit in port wine sauce, are you mad? And then off he goes again about hockey being the greatest sport of all, which is just silly, but who can argue with him when he’s riding that horse, you know what I mean? More wine with your horse?
In conclusion, we have failed as a culture if we do not take a long cold look at adultery, and wonder who invented such a word. Those of us with a scholarly cast of mind cannot help but consider other possibilities, such as if two cheeses had an affair, is that cheesery? Or if a female Republican, say one running for office in South Carolina, fails to resist the siren of temptation, and falls into cheesery with another elected official, say a Hispanic one in South Carolina, is that chicanery? And what wine would go with that?
I would very much like to close this brief essay with a last note about parking, and a quick insulting remark about suburban sports arenas, there’s an idea that didn’t pan out, did it? but we keep coming back inevitably to the rabbi, and all I can say about this is that you should listen with respect, and then make your own informed decision. The key is an informed conscience; in matters of such cultural import – for the truth is that our behavior individually does shape the future of our culture, except in Massachusetts – you must handle each aspect of the issue like an avocado, gently copping a feel while pretending that you are not thinking about what you and I know you are thinking about, and then asking yourself honestly, how could someone possibly say hockey is the greatest sport? Don’t you need teeth to be a great sport? More wine with your horse?

Currently reading John Warner’s The Funny Man (Soho Press)

2 Responses to “Brian Doyle: Man of the Hour”


  1. Lake Oswego’s Favorite Son « ourmaninboston - October 17, 2011

    […] not help but notice the excess of readers drawn to this small backwater web journal by my recent publication of one of Brian Doyle’s literary bon bons. Which is a long winded way of saying that I am […]

  2. Note This « ourmaninboston - November 29, 2011

    […] new friend (at least in the small world of literature) Brian Doyle, whose recent works(Mink River and Bin Laden’s Bald Spot) I have have extolled in this space […]

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