Brian Doyle’s Brevity

May 30, 2017 § 12 Comments

University of Portland - new faculty & staff photosWe were blessed to have Brian Doyle appear in the pages of Brevity seven times, stretching all the way back to issue four in 1999 and as recently as May 2015. His voice was like no other. His love of the world and everything in it seemingly boundless.

And God, was he funny. So blessedly funny.

Until the next sentence, when he made you cry.

We will miss him, greatly, and remember him, grandly. Thank goodness he left us his gorgeous, gracious words:

Mea Culpa I started paying attention. I started listening. I stopped sneering and snickering. I began to hear the pummel of blows rained down on people for merely being who they were.

Sachiel the Tailor What I am saying is that holes come and I make them go. I am in the business of closing holes. If all was well, if all things kept their composition, then I would have no work. But that is not the way of things.

Imagining Foxes We did not see a fox. I can assure you we did not see a fox. I could trot out my brother and sister today to testify that we did not see a fox.

A Child is Not Furniture But money is not the be all. If it was the be all then what is the point? The point is what you do without the money. The point is what you do with dash and brass. This is who you are. You are not what you can buy.

Ed You have but to meet Ed and you are Edified and Educated; the man is a force of nature, true to himself in every particular, forged by Russian Jewish parents, blessed by marriage to a Catholic girl from Idaho who once exploded a pie in a state baking contest, and graced finally by two children, male and female, who only grin when asked to explain their father, and it is this grin that seems to me a wonderfully summery thing, a flash of love in a world of pain, a warm pause in a cold year.

Pop Art They are cruel, and move in herds and gaggles and mobs, and woe unto the silent one, the one who looks funny, the one who speaks awkwardly, the fat one, for she will be shouldered aside, he will never get the ball, she will never be asked to jump rope, he will not be invited to the pool party, she will weep with confusion and rage, he will lash out with sharp small fists.

Her Numbers After a moment I realized that it was the number of the person who had inspected the new sandals my wife had worn that day, but for an arresting instant I thought I had found her secret number, her interior mathematical name, the parade of numerals that had worked its way to the surface of her skin after 30 years, and it sent me swimming into the sea of symbols that attempt to identify, quantify, specify her, to pin her down for a moment in her restless exuberant passage through time.





§ 12 Responses to Brian Doyle’s Brevity

  • ryderziebarth says:

    Just small spoonfuls of a delicious feast of thoughts and words. Thank you for compiling this, Dinty. We are all the more fufilled with emotional and mental nourishment from Brian banquets throughout his writing years.

  • Jan Priddy says:

    There has been too much sadness already coming from my home. Joyful energy and lust for being rolled off stage at the Coaster Theater just up the road. His humorous compassion for people helped us not just feel better, but be better. His grin made everyone smile.

    The dawn chorus just outside my window would have delighted him.

  • samiller1029 says:

    “Being Brians” is usually the first essay I teach in my creative nonfiction class. And through his words the students slowly come to realize how the intimate details can be so universal.

  • B Hunter says:

    What a special talent from a special soul. The world is better because of him. And eternal thanks to Gutenberg.

  • I read these glistening snippets and they do nothing less than to call on me to rethink the potential of the written word, to dig deeper with my own work, to bring more life and heart to the page.

  • Anna says:

    Thank you for this tribute to one of my heroes.

  • Tom McGohey says:

    Among contemporary writers, Brian Doyle was the one I avidly looked forward to reading in the many venues where he published — Brevity, American Scholar, Christianity Today, among others. His weekly series, “Epiphany,” at American Scholar, is treasure trove of short essays with the depth and richness of big novels. I always marveled at his ability to say so much in such a short space, and do so on a weekly basis. The title of Editor’s Note in American Scholar, Spring 2017, informing readers of Brian’s illness says it all — “Grace.”

  • Tom McGohey says:

    “One time when I lived in Chicago I was playing basketball in a playground on the north side of the city when a tall guy wearing a little kid around his neck like a scarf showed up and called winners.”

    Brian Doyle, “The Guy Who Wore His Kid Like a Scarf,” American Scholar

    This is my favorite piece from Brian’s Epiphanies series at AS. You can access all of them at AS website.

  • Tom McGohey says:

    Link for Doyle’s Epiphanies series at American Scholar. Think I’ll spend rest of day rereading my favorites — if I can take it.

  • […] Links to Brian’s essays in Brevity […]

  • […] For more on the salt and swing and song of Brian Doyle, see his seven dusty lewd brave vibrant Brevity essays and our recent Podcast […]

  • […] Brian Doyle’s essays published in […]

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