I came across a question in a book group on social media the other day: If you were stranded on a desert island, which author's work would you wish you had? The answer bubbled up immediately for me, but I wasn't surprised: Brian Doyle. Has ever a human written such a glorious body of work? His ability to capture the human condition, with the enormous spectrum of emotions we all feel, is almost otherworldly. While you sit in awe of that talent, he'll have you giggling until your stomach hurts; then you'll sit in awe of that talent as well. The world lost a giant of a man: giant heart, giant sense of the absurd, giant worshiper of language, giant wit. Reading One Long River of Song, a book I never expected to hold, was such a comfort. A long, delicious, beautiful book of essays, observations, and wit, rendered in the way only Brian Doyle can, was such a gift. Brian, you are so loved and so missed, and thank you for allowing us the luxury of experiencing your particular magic one more time. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A playful and moving book of essays by a "born storyteller" (Seattle Times) who invites us into the miraculous and transcendent moments of the everyday
When Brian Doyle passed away at the age of sixty after a bout with brain cancer, he left behind a cult-like following of devoted readers who regard his writing as one of the best-kept secrets of the twenty-first century. Doyle writes with a delightful sense of wonder about the sanctity of everyday things, and about love and connection in all their forms: spiritual love, brotherly love, romantic love, and even the love of a nine-foot sturgeon.
At a moment when the world can sometimes feel darker than ever, Doyle's writing, which constantly evokes the humor and even bliss that life affords, is a balm. His essays manage to find, again and again, exquisite beauty in the quotidian, whether it's the awe of a child the first time she hears a river, or a husband's whiskers that a grieving widow misses seeing in her sink every morning. Through Doyle's eyes, nothing is dull.
David James Duncan sums up Doyle's sensibilities best in his introduction to the collection: "Brian Doyle lived the pleasure of bearing daily witness to quiet glories hidden in people, places and creatures of little or no size, renown, or commercial value, and he brought inimitably playful or soaring or aching or heartfelt language to his tellings." A life's work, One Long River of Song invites readers to experience joy and wonder in ordinary moments that become, under Doyle's rapturous and exuberant gaze, extraordinary.
"Doyle's curiosity is insatiable and his self-described Celtic-mystic disposition spots the transcendent regularly. As much haunted by the language of James Joyce as the lessons of Jesus, Doyle sees and celebrates what happens every day in each essay of this eclectic collection. This 'best-of' should enlarge his circle of admirers." Publishers Weekly
"A posthumous collection of stunning mystical prose...Doyle's prose is so expansive and dripping with visceral detail that even the briefest vignettes are often a wondrous adventure. This brilliant compendium of spiritual musings will resonate with people of any faith — or of none." Kirkus (Starred Review)
"The essays in One Long River of Song are truly staggering — as close as stones in our palms, and as vast as the sky. Brian Doyle's voice is full of tender pivots, keen wit, and startling joy, summoning all of us to pay more passionate attention to the world." Leslie Jamison, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Empathy Exams and The Recovering
About the Author
Brian Doyle (1956-2017) was born in New York and attended the University of Notre Dame. He worked at U.S. Catholic Magazine, Boston College Magazine and, up until his death, was the editor of Portland Magazine. He wrote a number of novels and works of nonfiction, and his essays appeared in the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Orion, American Scholar, America Magazine, and many more. He won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, the 2017 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, the Oregon Book Award, three Pushcart Prizes, among others, and had multiple essays included in Best American Essays.