Posts Tagged ‘Brian Doyle’


Slow Reader Thursday: Mink River


I seldom make predictions. Why? Because my “crystal ball” is usually embarrassingly wrong. But I’m going to make one today: Mink River will one day be a required reading for some college course or high school class.

If the great poet e. e. cummings had a novelist kinsman, his name would probably be Brian Doyle (author of Mink River). Brian lectured at the writer’s conference I attended in Portland in April. And what was so poignant about Doyle? That he cried. Yes, he cried. But, it is what he cried about that struck me.

Doyle was in New York City on 9/11. He lived there. In fact Doyle still carries the remnant of his New York accent with him. And he knew, intimately, people who were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The devastation of this event quite obviously still haunts him. And it is this sensitive spirit, along with his Irish lyrical poetic nature that compelled me to buy his book while at the conference.

Mink River is not written “normally.” It took me a while to “settle in” with Doyle’s unusual style. How is it different? First, he is an essayist and writes the entire book in essay style. Each essay is about a page or two in length and details a small story that when woven with the rest of the essays, forms one compelling, but interesting book.

He also chooses to write pretty exclusively in present tense and while doing so, he rarely uses commas and quotation marks. While reading Mink River, I concluded that Brian Doyle is “King of the Run-on Sentence” and yet, I could read his sentences easily. Since I’ve never been fond of quotation marks, I found it refreshing that one can read his book and know who is saying what without the use of quotation marks. So much so, that I may never use quotation marks in a future novel of mine ever again!

About the time one wonders if Doyle will ever create a story from all these essays, he does and he does it breath-stopping fashion. I found myself wanting to turn the page and not put the book down. And he writes poetically–even lists of items reminded me of great poetic style, like that of Robert Frost. And if the reader is bored with “normal characters,” Doyle uses time itself and a talking crow to convey parts of the story.

One word of caution when reading Mink River for my Christian readers: Doyle has a Catholic upbringing and like many Catholics, Doyle must feel that he will be forgiven just about any indiscretion by his parish priest. Thus, he infrequently uses swear words and lewd human frailty as part of Mink River. At first this bothered me until I realized that he only used it when dealing with “fallen characters” who were struggling to find their way in the Mink River world. In other words he was accurately reflecting the often non-Christian nature of every community in America today. Furthermore, truth and accuracy are at the heart of his writing and just when one thinks they’re reading yet another sleazy novel, he intersperses Mink River with Bible verses and the indomitable American spirit that one should conquer evil wherever and however it is found.

Tomorrow’s Post: You 3.0: Mindset, Part II

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