Who is the Real Brian Doyle?

31 Aug

Mink River by Brian Doyle

Ever since I came across and enjoyed Brian Doyle‘s only novel (but 10th or 12th book) Mink River I have been interested in his work. Then came Bin Laden’s Bald Spot (Red Hen Press), a collection of stories, and it became clear to me that I had became something of a Doyle fanboy.

The Wet Engine by Brian Doyle

Doyle’s The Wet Engine: Exploring Mad, Wild Miracle of Heart Brian Doyle ( University of Oregon Press) ruminates on matters of the heart based on his infant son’s need for heart surgery. Originally published in 2005 it has been republished with a new foreword
by Dr. Marla Salmon, dean of the University of Washington School of Nursing. Doyle explains,

My son Liam was born nine years ago. He looked like a cucumber on steroids. He was fat and bald and round. He looked healthy as a horse. He wasn’t. He was missing a chamber in his heart, which is a problem, as you need four chambers for smooth conduct through this vale of fears and tears, and he only had three chambers, so pretty soon he had an open-heart surgery, during which doctors cut him open and iced down his heart and shut it down for an hour or so while they worked on repair

Cynthia Ozick weighs in,

Brian Doyle’s spirit is catching: it will catch you up, and soon you will have caught on to everything he feels and ruminates over and marvels at, and you will comprehend what poetry is and does. And you will know from the throb of The Wet Engine, this unique and beautiful book written in celestial prose, that Brian Doyle is a glorious a poet as he is a father; and vice versa.

Brian Doyle has also recently published a novel (though I don’t know why it isn’t a novella),Cat’s Food (Corby Books) based on the conceit— What if a man who lost his foot in a war decides, many years later, to find it? “ This will, of course, give you pause to examine more closely this Oregonian writer who has previously escaped your attention— “Among the more astounding and puzzling honors for his work are the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ 2008 Award in Literature, and the University of Notre Dame’s Father Robert Griffin Award for Writing, in 2010. That award earned him a free steak dinner, which he remembers fondly.”

Currently reading Battleborn by Claire Watkins (Riverhead)

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