We were surprised and intrigued (not to mention briefly taken with the dramatic possibilities of uncovering a literary scandal) when we stumbled upon news about a new book the other day. Rodale has published The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the Human Heart by Stephen Amidon and Thomas Amidon, M.D, a book that is receiving attention from the likes of NPR’s Weekend Edition. And here’s the hitch: Portland’s Brian Doyle, currently on the NW hot list for his first novel, Mink River, wrote a book for Paraclete Press in 2005 called The Wet Engine: Exploring the Mad Wild Miracle of the Heart. Yes, the “Sublime” version, co-authored by a doctor, has a classic anatomical look to it, while the “Wet” version, by the wet-engine-on-his-sleeve Doyle, not surprisingly, employs an artsier rendering of the vessel. But the thematic similarities are striking. Both books consider the heart as a physical, spiritual, and symbolic force, from ancient man to the guy stopping off for a heart-shaped box of chocolates on his way home from work tonight.
And Doyle’s response when shown that his territory was being so similarly mined? “Made me grin. That is truly weird.” How’s that for good hearted.