If ever there was a part a guy took because it would pay him a billion dollars without breaking a sweat it’s that one, but old Michael Caine makes it into a part where you would go see a whole movie about that guy, not the Dark Neurotic… “
by brian doyle
Q: What’s it all about?
A. (everyone in unison) Allllffffiiiieeeee…
Q. What’s it all about?
A. Well, technically, the quiver of atoms, the quaver of quarks.
Q: What’s it…?
A. Okay, it’s totally about Michael Caine. Is there any part the guy can’t play? Guy’s a stone genius. Doesn’t get enough credit. Even the tiniest parts are done with panache and wit and utter believability and a little dark salt. Batman’s butler, man, you think that’s a part with a whole lot of context? If ever there was a part a guy took because it would pay him a billion dollars without breaking a sweat it’s that one, but old Michael Caine makes it into a part where you would go see a whole movie about that guy, not the Dark Neurotic.
A. It’s all about mercy. That’s what it is all about under and through. Grace under duress. Attentiveness to suffering and the subsequent reaching out of hands to provide and purvey whatever help one can offer. Mercy.
Q. Is that all?
A. What else is there?
Q. Cheese, lust, Michael Caine, excellent beer, weasels and minks, baseball in July, hawks, and the way that children sometimes totally lose it laughing and they literally cannot keep standing or sitting and they actually no shit slump to the floor and curl up laughing so hard their stomachs and cheeks hurt the rest of the day. What could possibly be cooler than that?
A. Boy, you got me on that one.
Q. So there you go.
A. There you are.
Q. Shall we go?
A. Let us go.
A. Onward. What else is there? The past is not even past, says Faulkner, but, you know, for all the abject worshipping of Faulkner, and for all the way scholars begin to shiver and drool when they talk about Faulkner, the guy was a roaring drunk who beat his wife and his horse, and most of his work is impenetrable muck, and the past is damn my eyes, past, and the only place to go is forward, heedlessly and carefully, with both hands up, eyes open, and companions along the road, listening for children totally losing it laughing. So…off we go. You with me?
Brian Doyle is a muddled male mule who has committed eight books rather like a series of venial sins: five collections of essays, nonfiction misadventures about hearts and wine, and a collection of “proems” that the great American poet Pattiann Rogers says darkly will ruin the word poetry for ever and ever. More from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke. (bio/2009)
Brian Doyle was the author of many books, including the sea novel The Plover, which has, no kidding, music printed in it, not to mention Mink River, Martin Marten, The Wet Engine, and more than we can recall. He won the 2017 John Burroughs Medal for distinguished nature writing for Martin Marten, which was plenty cool and much deserved. Brian passed away peacefully at his Lake Oswego home on May 27, 2017.
More, much more, from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke.