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Sideways Review: A Crush

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John Proctor

on “Joyas Voladoras”

by Brian Doyle

The Best American Essays 2005

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~1st in a series

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I think I’m developing a crush on you, Brian Doyle.

Judging from the handful of your essays I’ve now read, you’re just as much a poet as an essayist, and you also seem to be a compulsive lister. I like poetry, or at least poetic language, and I love listing things.

All of your essays I’ve read have been relatively short, the language condensed to a jewel-like shimmer. This particular essay is about hummingbirds – or joyas voladoras, flying jewels – but then again, it’s not. It’s about the heart, its capabilities and limitations:

Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.

You then describe the heart of the blue whale, which is as big as a child’s room, then delineate the number of chambers each phylum in the animal kingdom contains. And finally, you send my own heart aflutter with an opus-like closing paragraph about the human heart’s capacity:

So much held in a heart in a lifetime…We are utterly open with no one, in the end – not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart.

I want to diagram this essay, down to the sentence, so I can learn to make readers feel the duende your three pages laid on me. And if that’s not love…

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John Proctor, who can also be found at  Numéro Cinq, is reading one volume of The Best American Essays a month for the next two years. He also has a crush on his wife.

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Other reviews in this series can be found here.

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“Joyas Voladoras” by Brian Doyle
The Best American Essays 2005 
Susan Orlean, Editor
Robert Atwan, Series Editor
Houghton Mifflin
2005


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Martin Brandt April 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm

His essay “Altar Boy” (Best American Essays, 1998) is one of my favorite essays of all time.

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