Brian Doyle is editor of Portland magazine at the University of Portland. He is the author of Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies, A Shimmer of Something: Lean Stories of Spiritual Substance, and, most recently, Martin Marten, a novel.
Novels that rattled and moved me in the last year or so include Anthony Doerr’s terrific World War II novel All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner). It’s the best novel I’ve read since Gilead. Like Marilynne Robinson, Doerr achieves a shimmering consistency of tone; it’s one of those books that you finish and then shake your head in quiet awe.
I was pawing through a shelf of books the other day When out fell a note from my late brother in his tiny Adamant wry inarguable crisp half-cursive-half-not Handwriting, and just for an instant I saw and heard Him at his desk, in his study, his mustache bristling, Black coffee half-cold, the burl of his body wrapped In the arms of the chair that held him for thirty years, A chair as big as a horse and twice as heavy. I heard Him, I tell you, I did, and I saw him, half-shadowed, Scribbling notes: his philatelic pursuits, notes for his Class next week, notes on a book he was going to do About Benedictine spirituality . . . then I was only me By the bookshelf again. But for a second I was in my Brother’s study, watching him. It was late, everybody Was in bed, but not him, as usual he was up late with Coffee. He was wearing a sweater. The scritch of his Pen. His shoulders like boulders. The dim procession Of his books, organized by genre and author. He died Three years ago. But I saw him, absorbed, thoroughly Attentive, scrawling notes. There’s way more possible Than we think possible; possible turns out to be a verb. I don’t know how else to explain things like this. They Happen all the time to all of us and we hesitate to gape About them publicly because the words sound like pap, Miracle and epiphany and vision, you come off as nuts, A religious goober who talks to owls and addled saints. But you know and I know that this happens. I guess we Will always understandably be hesitant to chat about it, Which is fine, as no one enjoys being labeled a goober; But once in a while, like here, we should admit that it’s Real, and it happens all the time, and it’s scary and cool. That’s all. Once in a while we should gently say what is.
By purest chance I was out in our street when the kindergarten Bus mumbled past going slow and I looked up just as all seven Kids on my side of the bus looked at me and I grinned and they Lit up and all this crap about God being dead and where is God And who owns God and who hears God better than whom is the Most egregiously stupid crap imaginable because if you want to See God and have God see you and have this mutual perception Be completely untrammeled by blather and greed and comment, Go stand in the street as the kindergarten bus murmurs past. I’m Not kidding and this is not a metaphor. I am completely serious. Everyone babbles about God but I saw God this morning just as The bus slowed down for the stop on Maple Street. God was six Girls and one boy with a bright green and purple stegosaurus hat. Of course God would wear a brilliantly colored tall dinosaur hat! If you were the Imagination that dreamed up everything that ever Was in this blistering perfect terrible world, wouldn’t you wear a Hat celebrating some of the wildest most amazing developments?