Karlene Bayok Edwards

Brian Doyle’s One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder

Still Life Before an Open Window by Juan Gris

I want to celebrate Brian Doyle’s One Long River of Song. It’s the librarian surfacing in me. I want to find the perfect person to share this perfect book with who will love it as much as I do, who will read it straight through, unable to slow down to consider how the author created such grace and generosity from small things like finding a mole dead in his garden or playing catch with his father for the first and only time. They are poems more than essays, songs more than poems, and if I could sing, I would sing them but to whom? This is not a book, though, I would have read when I was young, when I devoured mysteries, romance, westerns, science fiction, fantasy, never essays. I can’t imagine reading essays like those five-paragraph horrors we constructed in high school. But these. These are unique and joyous, and I want to write like Brian Doyle writes. I want to go back and study each phrase. How did he create sentences that never end yet are clear as blue sky morning? That give weight to jeweled moments like wading the sea with a son on each shoulder or being rocked by his young sister as she recites her times tables or grabbing a quick beer in a New York City bar seven months after 9/11, when a tall Marine in dress uniform stands to salute two tired firemen and everyone there stands to salute with him. I want to read Doyle’s essays aloud without weeping, for though his father was completely different from mine, he has captured fathers, beloved fathers, my father. I want to write to thank him, but I can’t for he is recently dead, like my father is long dead, and I can’t thank him either except to attempt his stories. If only I could write about my father as Mr. Doyle wrote about his father, bringing him so alive I hear his voice in his son’s words, as I wish my father could hear his voice in mine.

 

About the writer:
Karlene Bayok Edwards’s stories appear in Idaho Magazine and recently in Eastern Iowa Review. She writes from vivid memories of her wild Idaho childhood and from her new life in the Arizona desert. A former librarian and forever book lover, she co-facilitates a writing group in the Phoenix area. She still dreams of mountains.

About Brian Doyle: Brian Doyle (1956-2017) was an American writer and winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature.

Image: Still Life Before an Open Window by Juan Gris (1887-1927). Oil on canvas. 46.65 x 35.02 inches. 1915. Public domain.