Brian Doyle’s stories are prayers mending our beautiful broken world

Posted: December 10, 2017 by Mo Crow in good books, It's Crow Time
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I am reading a beautiful writer at the moment, he’s like reading a Michael Leunig cartoon in novel form, very plain spare words speaking about the wonder of all things.
from “Martin Marten” by Brian Doyle pages 200-201 (2015) a book about martens in NW Washington state
and so much more;
“… Who knew? And perhaps that’s how all things change; one decides to try this, and another notices and decides to try also, and then there is a new idea loose in the world, from which even newer ideas might someday hatch. And there is time and time enough for such ideas to flower, over the course of millions of years and ideas, and while some beings do not change – having found the idea in which they wish to stay forever, like the ancient ideas in which crabs and crocodiles and dragonflies live – other beings do change, some constantly, like the human beings, who were once animals who snarled and hooted and hunted and were hunted, animals little different from their omnivore mammalian cousins. But ideas bred easily among the human beings, and their snarls and hoots became songs and poems, and their solitary pursuits became plans and plots, and their slabs of split stone became swords and rifles, and so they commandeered the world, or tried to. But once they were dominant, their ideas began to wither, their success being poison to their dreams, and there were those among them who wondered if some subtle wildness had been the food of their greatest creativity, and if their salvation as a species, and their dwindling chance to clean and balance the world they had fouled and rattled, depended on something in them that yearned for trees and ice, waters and animals, mountains and caves, mystery and attentiveness, the humility before wonder that once they had thought merely their lot and fate, but was instead perhaps their greatest gift and grace.”

from “Chicago” by Brian Doyle pages 294-295 (2017) a book about the chigago-ness of Chicago and a dog called Edward who is an extraordinarily ordinary illuminated being;
“… At this magazine I hope you have learned the rudiments of the craft, the way you must balance ego and humility, the way the profession is finally one of service, not of heroic gratification of your urge to be important. We are not important. We are crucial, yes; without us there is naught but lies and thievery and souls easily led to the altar of Mammon, thereupon to be sacrificed to serious profit, which is our first and foremost deity and principle; but we are not important in the eyes of the world, and will never be. I hope you learned that here. Those among us who expose and uncover the most chicanery and greed will be soon found to have feet of clay, and hands of the stickiest glue, and the sexual proclivities of maddened weasels; those among us who ferret out the true facts of imbroglio and crime will soon enough be banished and exiled, doomed to flog useless products of one kind or another for the rest of their days; those of us who write most beautifully and gracefully and eloquently and powerfully will be suspected of plagiarism, rumoured to be dope fiends, assumed to be self-absorbed egomaniacs, and eventually doomed to be forgotten, our books and articles turned to mold and mulch. That is the fate of all journalism.
“But we are crucial. That is what I hope you have learned. We listen and collect and share stories. Without stories there is no nation and no religion and no culture. Without stories of bone and substance and comedy there is only a river of lies, and sweet and delicious ones they are, too. We are the gatherers, the shepherds, the farmers of stories. We wander widely and look for them and gather them and share them as food. It is a craft as necessary and nutritious as any other, and if you are going to be good at it you must double your humility and triple your curiosity and quadruple your ability to listen.”

and from “Mink River” by Brian Doyle p16 (2010) a book about a not especially stunning town in Oregon “bounded by four waters: one muscular river, two shy little creeks, one ocean”… and a crow
“Billy, he says quietly. Billy. We heal things. That’s what we do. That’s why we’re here. We’ve always agreed on that. Right from the start. We do as well as we can. We fail a lot but we keep after it. What else can we do? We have brains that still work so we have to apply them to pain. Brains against pain. That’s the motto. That’s the work. That’s what we do. Soon enough we will not have brains that work, so therefore.”

I am loving every one of these books reading them back to back, sadly this beautiful man passed away in May this year but he has left a legacy of stories celebrating the magic found in observing the wonder in the ordinary, the beauty in the day to day met with deep love & compassion for our beautiful broken world
these passages may not make that much sense out of context, to get more of a sense of his deep compassion & grace read this short piece from that terrible moment when the twin towers in NYC fell
Leap by Brian Doyle

  1. ravenandsparrow says:

    Brian Doyle is such a liquid linguist, true humanist and a voice of the sacred. Chicago is the only book of his (that I know of) that I haven’t read. I recommend The Plover also.

  2. “We heal things. That’s what we do. That’s why we’re here.” LET US AGREE. I DON’T KNOW WHICH I’LL ASK FOR FIRST. Even if there is no Audio book I may just have to struggle to read. Lovely share MO.

  3. vdbolyard says:

    so glad, mo, that you’ve enticed me with a writer who seems to be “my sort”. thank you. i’ll even write down his name so i can remember to go stack hunting at the libraries! thank you.

  4. debgorr says:

    Oh that’s all so lovely… Off to see what the library has.

  5. Thank you for such a precious gift as a ‘new’ writer to explore. Definitely will be seeking his work out.

  6. Hazel says:

    just read “Leap”. ohhh. Oh. Off to join Deb at the library…

  7. mutabilia says:

    and there I was , trying not to buy more books (or anything, really) this year. sigh.

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