Tag Archives: Earl Emerson

Reading the NW

Recently finished Brian Doyle‘s lovely fiction debut Mink River, magical realism of the sort you might expect from a book that crosses Irish and coastal Native American stories and styles. It’s rich, delightful, and satisfying and I kept thinking as I read it that if it didn’t turn out to remain so all the way through the end I should be horribly disappointed.

I wasn’t. Every time I thought the storylines might get too plot-less, or the interweaving (sentence to sentence, in some sections) might unravel, or the lush repetition might overwhelm, what needed to happen happened, in some unexpected and wonderfully blooming way.

Mink River is set in a town on the Oregon coast, not, as Doyle explains at the beginning, “an especially stunning town, stunningtownwise” — there are

no houses crying out to be on the cover of a magazine that no one actually reads anyway and the magazine ends up in the bathroom and then is cut to ribbons for a fourth-grade collage project that uses a jar of rubber cement that was in the drawer by the back stairs by the old shoebox and the jar of rubber cement is so old that you secretly wonder if it fermented or a mouse died in it or what.

One way to put it is that the rest of the book tells you what the town is.

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