Brian Doyle might just be the most passionate storyteller in America. In this eclectic and compelling collection of stories Doyle writes about his discovery of the incarnated Spirit of God every time he turns around, often in the most unlikely of people, places, and things. In 37 short snapshots, he captures the spiritual essence of everyday life from the perspective of a committed Catholic who loves his faith, his family, his community, and his church, even with all their warts and failings. (Hence the beautiful Argentine tree frog that graces the cover.)
Be prepared to take a beautiful, breathtaking, tear-jerking ride on some of the most accomplished, outside-the-box writing you’ve ever read.
Attentiveness is the beginning of all prayer, says the great poet Mary Oliver, and everything that lives is holy, says the confusing poet Billy Blake, and all the way to heaven is heaven, says the tart Saint Catherine of Siena, and let grief be a falling leaf, says the testy poet Van Morrison, and grace under duress is the great story of us, says the undersigned muddleness, and how we reach for one another and listen to one another’s music and share stories like the most amazing and nutritious food—that’s what we are all here for. Me personally I think stories are the coolest wildest prayers there are. It’s no accident that the skinny Jewish guy who wandered around Judea some centuries ago was a terrific storyteller, his tales mysterious and shimmering, wriggling their way through the millennia even unto our day, and now into the ears and hearts of our children and our children’s children; stories matter, stories live forever, stories are how we shuffle quickest toward the Mercy greater than the ocean and denser than the stars in the sky. Stories maybe save lives. They sure saved mine.
— Brian Doyle, from the Foreword
Brian Doyle is a hirsute shambling shuffling mumbling grumbling muttering muddled maundering meandering male being who edits Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon – the best university magazine in America, according to Newsweek, and "the best spiritual magazine in the country," according to author Annie Dillard, clearly a woman of surpassing taste and discernment.
Doyle is the author of nine books: five collections of essays, two nonfiction books (The Grail, about a year in an Oregon vineyard, and The Wet Engine, about the "muddles & musics of the heart"), and two collections of "proems," most recently Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices. His novel Mink River will be published in October of 2010 by Oregon State University Press.
Doyle’s books have four times been finalists for the Oregon Book Award, and his essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion, The American Scholar, and in newspapers and magazines around the world. His essays have also been reprinted in the annual Best American Essays, Best American Science & Nature Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies. Among various honors for his work is a Catholic Book Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and, mysteriously, a 2008 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
His greatest accomplishments are that a riveting woman said yup when he mumbled a marriage proposal, that the Coherent Mercy then sent them three lanky snotty sneery testy sweet brilliant nutty muttering children in skin boats from the sea of the stars, and that he made the all-star team in a Boston men’s basketball league that was a really tough league, guys drove the lane in that league they lost fingers, man, one time a guy drove to the basket and got hit so hard his right arm fell off but he was lefty and hit both free throws, so there you go.
Photo credit: Jerry Hart.