“Otters Rule. And So: Amen”

Portland author Brian Doyle passed away on May 27, 2017, at the age of 60, from complications related to what he called a “big honkin’ brain tumor.” Not only was he the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland for 25 years and the author of many books, but he was a friend to McMenamins. There is a room in the Kennedy School’s English Wing named for his novelMink River. And he wrote a short story about a favorite spot, the Fulton Pub in SW Portland (where is he shown at left), called “An Ale Tale” – here’s an excerpt:

“It’s unpretentious, friendly, liable to laughter. There are babies and dogs and mismatched chairs. There’s world-class stuff made there but there’s no preening or wheedling. The pub and the ale were created here by people here for people here. When it rains everyone crowds inside, including the dogs. When the sun comes out everyone sprawls outside, including the babies.
On the hottest hot days, the guy making ales in the back throws open the screen door and out writhes the most redolent funky bready earthy dense smell you ever smelled, which is the smell of Hammerhead being born.”
– Brian Doyle

Below are excerpts from his Oregonian obituary. If you want to read another piece of Doyle’s, I recommend his short story “A Sin” – make sure to have tissues nearby, it is heartbreakingly lovely.

“Cancer is to be endured, that’s all,” he wrote in an eerily prescient 2009 commentary piece for The Oregonian/OregonLive. …

Brian James Patrick Doyle was born in 1956 in New York to Ethel Clancey Doyle, a teacher, and James Doyle, a journalist who was executive director of the Catholic Press Association for 30 years. He attended the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in English, graduating in 1978.

His day jobs were at magazines: U.S. Catholic, Boston College Magazine and finally Portland Magazine, where he became editor in 1991, a position he held until his death.

But it was his fervor for storytelling and his unqualified joy in writing that made his name nationally, with his fans searching out not only his books but also his writings for The Sun magazine, the Daily Guideposts website and other publications. He credited his father with nurturing his literary passion, telling one interviewer, “He taught me more than anyone or anything that stories swim by the millions and most of being a writer is listening and seeing and then madly scribbling.”…

Oregon, the adopted home he credited in a 2015 interview with giving him “the people I love best, wonderful friends, good work, clean water by the ton from the sky,” was the source of some of the stories he treasured most, such as Mink River. “That book had Oregonness,” he said in a 2016 interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive. “That pleases me enormously as a way to say thank you to Oregon.”

Doyle’s most recent story, published in March, was the novel The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World: A Novel of Robert Louis Stevenson, a masterful ode to storytelling and storytellers. … [An excerpt from the novel]: “There is a story in every thing, and every being, and every moment, were we alert to catch it, were we ready with our tender nets; indeed there are a hundred, a thousand stories, uncountable stories, could they only be lured out and appreciated; and more and more now I realize that what I thought was a skill only for authors and pastors and doctors and dream-diviners is the greatest of all human skills, the one that allows us into the heart and soul and deepest layers of our companions on the brief sunlit road between great dark wildernesses.”

It is one of numerous passages in which Doyle celebrates stories. “To catch and share stories, what could be holier and cooler than that?” he told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “Stories change lives; stories save lives. … They crack open hearts, they open minds.” …

Doyle’s survivors include his wife, Mary Miller Doyle; sons, Liam and Joseph; and daughter, Lily.

And finally this, and excerpt from a piece Doyle wrote recently called “Last Prayer,” addressed to Coherent Mercy:

But hey, listen, can I ask one last favor? If I am sent back for another life, can I meet my lovely bride again? In whatever form? Could we be hawks, or otters maybe? And can we have the same kids again if possible? And if I get one friend again, can I have my buddy Pete? He was a huge guy in this life–make him the biggest otter ever and I’ll know him right away, okay?

Thanks, Boss. Thanks from the bottom of my heart. See You soon.

Remember–otters. Otters rule. And so: amen.

2 Comments

  1. Warren Dogeagle on June 8, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Way cool! He and Portland were mutually blessed to have had each other.

  2. Marc Covert on June 9, 2017 at 9:54 am

    You should also mention the “Whisky Wars” painting in the stairwell of the English Wing, one of the city’s great unknown attractions. Brian and David Duncan are shown in perpetual disagreement on the merits of Scotch vs. Irish whisky.

Leave a Comment





2 × 3 =