[Article by Robbie Fraser]
Brian Doyle’s most recent novel, Mink River, manages to showcase the Northwest in the same way that Irish authors like James Joyce showcased their own country. It’s not a claim one lightly makes, but it is a claim that the book nonetheless deserves. While a multitude of genuinely unique characters paint a portrait of the fictional town of Neawanka in full, Doyle also manages to present a novel that is accessible to the reader in a way that writer’s like Joyce famously never did. It is a highly entertaining story in its own right, and provides the readers with a page turning presentation of events amid Doyle’s unique brand of philosophy. In this month’s issue, Doyle was kind enough to sit down with Synchronized Chaos and offer his thoughts on his novel, as well as give a little insight on his life as a writer
“In a small town on the Oregon coast there are love affairs and almost-love-affairs, mystery and hilarity, bears and tears, brawls and boats, a garrulous logger and a silent doctor, rain and pain, Irish immigrants and Salish stories, mud and laughter. There’s a Department of Public Works that gives haircuts and counts insects, a policeman addicted to Puccini, a philosophizing crow, beer and berries. An expedition is mounted, a crime committed, and there’s an unbelievably huge picnic on the football field. Babies are born. A car is cut in half with a saw. A river confesses what it’s thinking…”
–Oregon State University Press
Synchronized Chaos: How long has the general idea for Mink River been floating around in your mind?
Brian Doyle: Probably 25 years. I wrote a short story in the mid eighties, published it, thought I was done with the characters, but they kept chatting away in my head – I could actually hear and see them – very odd. They are not based on anyone – they were, for whatever reasons, real to me. I tried then for years to push and see what would happen, but I am an essayist, not a novelist, and I’d stop again and again. Finally I set about just writing one tiny story a day of the town and its people, and that was the key to it – then it ran loose, and after a couple of years of one hour a morning, quite early, it wanted finally to be a Book. A wonderful soaring puzzling pleasure to have lived with those characters for so long. I miss them, actually.
Robbie Fraser is an associate editor for Synchronized Chaos Magazine. Fraser may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.