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Award-winning Author Brian Doyle Dies at 60

May 30, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore.—Brian Doyle, award-winning author and editor of Portland Magazine, died May 27, 2017, after a six-month battle with a brain tumor.

His funeral Mass will be at 11:30 a.m. Friday, June 2, 2017, at St. Mary's Cathedral in Portland.

Doyle, 60, is survived by his wife, Mary, their daughter, Lily, and twin sons Liam and Joseph.

"Brian exemplified God's grace by how he lived his life," said University of Portland President Rev. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C. "He was a man filled with a sense of humanity and wonder, who was interested in everyone's story and who saw everyone’s potential. His warmth, humor and passion for life will be deeply missed."

Born in New York City in 1956 to James A. Doyle, a journalist, and Ethel Clancey Doyle, a teacher, Doyle grew up in a large Irish Catholic family in a home peppered with Irish Gaelic. He always knew he would be a writer and credits his start to his parents, whom he described as gifted raconteurs and storytellers. His father led the Catholic Press Association for thirty years, and Doyle's writings, like his father's, reflect his deep Catholic faith.

After earning a degree in English from the University of Notre Dame in 1978, he went on to become the assistant editor at U.S. Catholic magazine and, later, a senior writer for Boston College Magazine, before he was hired as editor of the University of Portland's quarterly magazine in 1991.


Doyle wrote many books of fiction, essays, and poems, including Ave's A Book of Uncommon Prayer: 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary, which was named “A Best Spiritual Book of the Year” by Spirituality & Practice and received an honorable mention in spiritual soft-cover books from the Catholic Press Association. His novels include Mink River, The Plover, Chicago, and Martin Marten, for which he won a 2016 Oregon Book Award for Young Adult Literature. His most recent novel, The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World: A Novel of Robert Louis Stevenson, was published in March 2017. His essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion, The American Scholar, The Sun Magazine, and The New York Times, and have been reprinted in the annual anthologies from Best American Essays, Best American Science and Nature Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing.


Other honors include a number of book awards from the Catholic Press Association, three Pushcart Prizes, the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the John Burroughs Award for Nature Essays, and, most recently, the 2017 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing for his novel Martin Marten, only the second work of fiction to be awarded the Medal in its 90-year history.

Here is Doyle's final prayer from A Book of Uncommon Prayer, “Last Prayer”:

Dear Coherent Mercy: thanks. Best life ever. Personally I never thought a cool woman would come close to understanding me, let alone understanding me but liking me anyway, but that happened! And You and I both remember that doctor in Boston saying polite but businesslike that we would not have children but then came three children fast and furious! And no man ever had better friends, and no man ever had a happier childhood and wilder brothers and a sweeter sister, and I was that rare guy who not only loved but liked his parents and loved sitting and drinking tea and listening to them! And You let me write some books that weren’t half bad, and I got to have a career that actually no kidding helped some kids wake up to their best selves, and no one ever laughed more at the ocean of hilarious things in this world, or gaped more in astonishment at the wealth of miracles everywhere every moment. I could complain a little right here about the long years of back pain and the occasional awful heartbreak, but Lord, those things were infinitesimal against the slather of gifts You gave mere me, a muddle of a man, so often selfish and small. But no man was ever more grateful for Your profligate generosity, and here at the very end, here in my last lines, I close my eyes and weep with joy that I was alive, and blessed beyond measure, and might well be headed back home to the incomprehensible Love from which I came, mewling, many years ago. 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.

For more information about Brian Doyle’s life and work, visit the University of Portland website.


1 Denise Clements

Oct. 29, 2017
I would like to have a copy of this article about the passing of Brian Doyle that includes his fibal prayer. I admire him and his writings so much. Please let me know how to get this. Blessings, Denise Clements

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