Thursday, April 17, 2014

Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle edits Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He is the author of over one dozen books, including six collections of essays, two nonfiction books, two collections of “proems,” the short story collection Bin Laden’s Bald Spot, the novella Cat’s Foot, and the novel Mink River. He is also the editor of several anthologies, most recently Ho`olaule`a, a collection of writing about the Pacific islands.

His new novel is The Plover.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Doyle's reply:
The usual motley chaos and hubbub, as always featuring the startling new (Alice McDermott’s superb Someone), the relatively obscure old (the nature stories of Charles Roberts, and Farley Mowat’s People of the Deer), and the terrific half-known-in-America (the very fine essays of Helen Garner of Australia). Also maritime adventures, mostly Alexander Kent’s series now that I finally finished Patrick O’Brian, and John le CarrĂ©’s unbelievably good The Secret Pilgrim. Q: Why do we not list le CarrĂ© when we talk about the finest writers of our time? To me he’s as good as Coetzee or Naipaul, and far better as a novelist than Roth and Updike. Also this morning with real reverence and respect I ran my fingers over my Peter Matthiessen books, and thought again that he wrote at least three masterpieces (The Tree Where Man Was Born, The Snow Leopard, and Men’s Lives, about fishermen off the island first called Paumonok, long before it was unimaginatively renamed Long Island). I like his fiction but do not love it as much as Peter did; he said many times he was a novelist first, but I think he was among the best articulate eloquent attentive passionate witnesses to What Is ever hatched in this nation. If you have never read Peter, read The Tree Where Man Was Born first maybe, and then wander freely through the rest of his many books.

Q: Why are you reading McDermott, Mr Doyle?

A: Because she is the finest Catholic fiction writer in America since Andre Dubus, who was the heir of J.F. Powers, who was the heir of Flannery O’Connor, who knew God personally.

Q: What is with you and stories about animals, and Farley Mowat, who looks like a bedraggled badger?

A: I just love them, and Farley is a hell of a fine writer, and me personally with great respect for Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood, I adore Mowat and Robertson Davies, who both had beards bigger than Manitoba.

Q: Australian literature?

A: Read the Flanagan brothers Richard and Martin; Garner; David Malouf; and Tim Winton, and you too will be amazed.

Q: Maritime novels?

A: I just wrote one!!!! The Plover!!! and I think I still have salt in my nose and it feels great.
Learn more about The Plover.

My Book, The Movie: Doyle's Bin Laden’s Bald Spot.

Writers Read: Brian Doyle (October 2011).

The Page 69 Test: Mink River.

--Marshal Zeringue