I'm not normally a fan of short story collections — they're too insignificant, too shallow, too constrained. Yet it seems that anything Brian Doyle writes is instantly able to hook me. Here you have the quirkiest collection of characters ever cobbled together (Bin Laden's barber, anyone?). Doyle managed to circumvent my entrenched bias and made me a believer in the absolute perfection of a short story written well. If you haven't read him, do yourself a favor and pick up anything he's done; enjoy the meandering, quixotic, and singular musings of Portland's own Brian Doyle. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Welcome to the peculiar and headlong world of Brian Doyle’s fiction, where the odd is happening all the time, reported upon by characters of every sort and stripe. Swirling voices and skeins of story, laughter and rage, ferocious attention to detail and sweeping nuttiness, tears and chortling — these stories will remind readers of the late giant David Foster Wallace, in their straightforward accounts of anything-but-straightforward events; of modern short story pioneer Raymond Carver, a bit, in their blunt, unadorned dialogue; and of Julia Whitty, a bit, in their willingness to believe what is happening, even if it absolutely shouldn’t be.
Funny, piercing, unique, memorable, this is a collection of stories readers will find nearly impossible to forget:
... The barber who shaves the heads of the thugs in Bin Laden’s cave tells cheerful stories of life with the preening video-obsessed leader, who has a bald spot shaped just like Iceland.
... A husband gathers all of his wife’s previous boyfriends for a long day on a winery-touring bus.
... A teenage boy drives off into the sunset with his troubled sister’s small daughters…and the loser husband locked in the trunk of the car.
... The late Joseph Kennedy pours out his heart to a golf-course bartender moments before the stroke that silenced him forever.
… A man digging in his garden finds a brand-new baby boy, still alive, and has a chat with the teenage neighbor girl whose son it is.
... A man born on a Greyhound bus eventually buys the entire Greyhound Bus Company and revolutionizes Western civilization.
... A mountainous bishop dies and the counting of the various keys to his house turns… tense.
... A man discovers his wife having an affair, takes up running to grapple with his emotions, and discovers everyone else on the road is a cuckold too.
And many others.
"The title of Doyle's third collection of (often very) short stories reflects his humorous approach to topics such as terrorism, religion, and infidelity. Conveying more sentiment and humor in a few paragraphs than many writers do over several pages, Doyle (Mink River) introduces a slew of memorable characters, including a man who purports to be the official barber of al Qaida in the title story (clearly written before bin Laden's assassination in May 2011). In 'King of the Losers,' the 16-year-old narrator kidnaps his 4-year-old niece and 1-year-old nephew to rescue them from social workers. In 'AAA Plus,' a broken-down car leads Doyle's narrator to expound on the merits of expanded coverage offered by the American Automobile Association, while 'The Man Who Wanted to Live in the Library' needs no explanation. With deft versatility, he counters those pieces with gut-wrenching war stories, a diatribe against pedophilia in the Catholic Church, and a moving take on teen pregnancy. Doyle skillfully plays with words and phrasing, stringing intricate narratives through paragraph-long sentences and, in one lengthy piece, even uses the ampersand as a plot device. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Welcome to the peculiar and headlong world of Brian Doyle’s fiction, where the odd is happening all the time, reported upon by characters of every sort and stripe. Swirling voices and skeins of story, laughter and rage, ferocious attention to detail and sweeping nuttiness, tears and chortling—these stories will remind readers of the late giant David Foster Wallace, in their straightforward accounts of anything-but-straightforward events; of modern short story pioneer Raymond Carver, a bit, in their blunt, unadorned dialogue; and of Julia Whitty, a bit, in their willingness to believe what is happening, even if it absolutely shouldn’t be.
About the Author
Brian Doyle is the editor of 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 Annie Dillard.
Doyle is the author of ten previous 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”), two collections of short prose, and the sprawling novel Mink River, which Publishers Weekly called an “original, postmodern, shimmering tapestry of smalltown life.”
Doyle is a four-time finalist 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 are a Catholic Book Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and a 2008 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
He once made the all-star team in a Boston men’s basketball league, and that was a really tough league. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife and children.
Read exclusive essays by Brian Doyle from 2010