This post is part of My Friend Amy’s Frederick Buechner Week! Amy asked us to write about our experience in discovering or reading Buechner, and a review of one of his books. Visit her blog for more reviews and such this week.
I probably have no business professing to be a Frederick Buechner fan. One book read does not a fan make, especially for an author with about 30 to his name. Oh, but I can claim the title of Wannabe Fan, or maybe Curious or something.
Even though he still seems relatively obscure, Buechner’s name seemed to keep showing up on favorite author lists by folks I admire for their deep thinking and general good taste… alongside other writers that have left their marks on me, like Lewis and Chesterton and L’Engle and such. And then I saw this quote and knew I had to check him out:
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
My first experience came from tracking down his sermons anthology Secrets in the Dark at the library, which took the full six weeks to pick my way through, mostly because the writing is so dense and beautiful, and his ideas so deep and thought-provoking it took time to process it all. I honestly couldn’t tell you too much about it off the top of my mind, because it was so much, but it was enough to make me want to read more.
The problem with jumping in to an author with so much heritage and such a huge body of work is figuring out just where to begin. But I think I have a recommendation… my second ever Buechner read, and probably the quickest and easiest place to start: Listening to Your Life.
This book of 365 “Daily Meditations” is a devotional-style sampler from all across his catalog. There’s bits of his sermons, pieces of memoirs, and excerpts from fiction too. Each meditation is short, usually less than a page. Normally, I’m terrible at keeping up with a “devotional,” but most pieces are short enough that even if I miss a day or two, I can easily catch up. Not that you’d want to plow too quickly through it though… these excerpts are meant to be read slowly, perhaps re-read, savored, and pondered throughout the day.
A wide range of topics are addressed: faith and doubt, church and family, art and the creative process. And each piece stands well enough on its own to feel unique, but often hints at something deeper in the longer work.
It’s hard to give a proper “review” since I’m only two months in. (Or three. I actually started it last December.) But I can say that this is a great way to get a background to his diverse range of writing and start listing books to explore deeper. As for my next one… I’ve already got a shiny new copy of his novel Godric patiently waiting in my To-Read pile.
For further book recommendations, check out this post by Dale Brown, who is far more well-versed in Buechner’s writing than I am. (since he wrote a biography and is director of The Buechner Institute at King College and stuff like that. :)) I for one will be using this as a guide in the future!