#4-One Long River of Song-Heartlands 2020 Best Reads

I like to keep a magical writer by my morning reading chair. For a few blessed months this year and last it was Brian Doyle, whose brief essays in the collection One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder sing. His observations have the attention of a nature writer and the lilt of an Irishman at the local pub telling incredible tales. Easily into the Best Reads this year at #4.

You can read my full review here, but here’s an excerpt:

Doyle doesn’t have the expansive vision of [David James] Duncan or the clear-eyed ferocity of [Annie] Dillard, two writers I would certainly include in the same conversation with Doyle. His bread and butter are small moments of relationship and warm, fellow feeling. But this collection doesn’t shrink from celebrating the incarnate pleasures of the world, and that is a gift. One particularly exuberant passage gives this voice:

Look, I know very well that brooding misshapen evil is everywhere, in the brightest houses and the most cheerful denials, in what we do and what we have failed to do, and I know all too well that the story of the world is entropy, things fly apart, we sicken, we fail, we grow weary, we divorce, we are hammered and hounded by loss and accidents and tragedies. But I also know, with all my hoary muddled heart, that we are carved of immense confusing holiness; that the whole point of us is grace under duress; and that you either take a flying leap at nonsensical illogical unreasonable ideas like marriage and marathons and democracy and divinity, or you huddle behind the wall. (177-8)

–Brian Doyle, One Long River of Song

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