Dec 01, Chris rated it really liked it Godric was leant to me by a friend, but it sat on the shelf for almost a year awaiting a breach in my perpetual reading list. Recently I was ready to just give it back without reading because I had held on to it so long, but an endorsement on the back cover caught my eye literally moments before I handed it back: From the books opening sentenceany sensible reader will be caught in Godrics grip Peter Prescott, Newsweek. Well, that sounded like a challenge. Five friends I had, and two of them Godric was leant to me by a friend, but it sat on the shelf for almost a year awaiting a breach in my perpetual reading list. Frederick Buechner truly writes with a masterful literary and poetic quality.
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In The Sacred Journey Buechner recalls: "Virtually every year of my life until I was fourteen, I lived in a different place, had different people to take care of me, went to a different school.
The only house that remained constant was the one where my maternal grandparents lived in a suburb of Pittsburgh called East Liberty Apart from that one house on Woodland Road, home was not a place to me when I was a child. It was people. Bermuda left a lasting impression on Buechner.
The distinctly British flavor of pre-World War II Bermuda provided in him a lifelong appreciation of English custom and culture, which would later inspire such works as Godric and Brendan. Education and military service[ edit ] Edith Memorial Chapel at Lawrenceville School , where Buechner attended high school Buechner then attended the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey , graduating in While at Lawrenceville, he met the future Pulitzer Prize winning poet James Merrill ; their friendship and rivalry inspired the literary ambitions of both.
Regarding his time at Princeton , Buechner commented in an interview: I really knew two Princetons. The first one was during the war, when everybody was being drafted or enlisting.
It was just one drunken farewell party after another. Nobody did any work. I was in the Army for two years. When I came back, I was so delighted to be free again that I buckled down and learned a few things. Henry Award in No intellectual pursuit had ever aroused in me such intense curiosity, and much more than my intellect was involved, much more than my curiosity aroused.
In the unfamiliar setting of a Presbyterian church , of all places, I had been moved to astonished tears which came from so deep inside me that to this day I have never fathomed them, I wanted to learn more about the source of those tears and the object of that astonishment. Even George Buttrick, whose words had so inspired Buechner, observed that, "It would be a shame to lose a good novelist for a mediocre preacher.
Following his first year at Union, Buechner decided to take the school year off to continue his writing.
In the spring of , shortly before he left Union for the year, Buechner met his wife Judith at a dance given by some family friends. They were married a year later by James Muilenberg in Montclair, N. After his sabbatical , Buechner returned to Union to complete the two further years necessary to receive a Bachelor of Divinity. He was ordained on June 1, at the same Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church where he had heard George Buttrick preach four years earlier.
Buechner was ordained as an evangelist , or minister without pastoral charge. Shortly before graduation, as he considered his future role as minister of a parish, he received a letter from Robert Russell Wicks, formerly the Dean of the Chapel at Princeton , who had since begun serving as school minister at Phillips Exeter Academy.
Wicks offered him the job of instituting a new, full-time religion department at Exeter ; Buechner decided to take the opportunity to return to teaching and to develop a program that taught religion in depth. Exeter[ edit ] In September , the Buechners moved to Exeter. There, Buechner faced the challenge of creating a new religion department and academically rigorous curriculum that would challenge the often cynical views of his new students.
To put it more positively, it was to present the faith as appealingly, honestly, relevantly, and skillfully as I could.
Also during this time, the family grew to include three daughters. For the school year , the Buechners took a sabbatical on their farm in Rupert, Vermont , during which time Buechner returned to his writing; his fourth book, The Final Beast, was published in As the first book he had written since his ordination, The Final Beast represented a new style for Buechner, one in which he combined his dual callings as minister and as author.
Buechner describes their house in Now and Then: "Our house is on the eastern slope of Rupert Mountain, just off a country road, still unpaved then, and five miles from the nearest town I have seen other places equally beautiful in my time, but never, anywhere, have I seen one more so.
However, in , Buechner received a letter from Charles Price , the chaplain at Harvard , inviting him to give the Noble Lectures series in the winter of His predecessors in this role included Richard Niebuhr and George Buttrick, and Buechner was both flattered and daunted by the idea of joining so august a group.
When he voiced his concerns, Price replied that he should write "something in the area of "religion and letters. So The Alphabet of Grace was the title I hit upon, and what I set out to do was to try to describe a single representative day of my life in a way to suggest what there was of God to hear in it.
It is a collection of essays. All but one have been published previously. I am sure that I chose such a melancholy theme partly because it seemed effective and fashionable, but I have no doubt that, like dreams generally, it also reflected the way I felt about at least some dimension of my own life and the lives of those around me.
Conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein commented on the novel: "I have rarely been so moved by a perception. Buechner shows a remarkable insight into one of the least easily expressible tragedies of modern man; the basic incapacity of persons really to communicate with one another. That he has made this frustration manifest, in such a personal and magnetic way, and at the age of twenty-three, constitutes a literary triumph. His first such work, The Magnificent Defeat, is a collection of sermons, signifying his growth into his career as a minister at Exeter.
Throughout his career, he published several more volumes of sermons, most recently Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons, which includes a "more or less [chronological] culling" of his sermons, "together with the most recent and hitherto unpublished ones. Of his interest in memoir, Buechner wrote in the introduction to The Sacred Journey: "About ten years ago I gave a set of lectures at Harvard in which I made the observation that all theology , like all fiction, is at its heart autobiography, and that what a theologian is doing essentially is examining as honestly as he can the rough-and-tumble of his own experience with all its ups and downs, its mysteries and loose ends, and expressing in logical, abstract terms the truths about human life and about God that he believes he has found implicit there.
More as a novelist than as a theologian, more concretely than abstractly, I determined to try to describe my own life as evocatively and candidly as I could in the hope that such glimmers of theological truth as I believed I had glimpsed in it would shine through my description more or less on their own. It seemed to me then, and seems to me still, that if God speaks to us at all in this world, if God speaks anywhere, it is into our personal lives that he speaks.
Published in the years from —, it brought Buechner to a much wider audience, and gained him very positive reviews Lion Country , the first book in the series, was a finalist for the National Book Award in Of writing the series, Buechner says: "I had never known a man like Leo Bebb and was in most ways quite unlike him myself, but despite that, there was very little I had to do by way of consciously, purposefully inventing him.
He came, unexpected and unbidden, from a part of myself no less mysterious and inaccessible than the part where dreams come from; and little by little there came with him a whole world of people and places that was as heretofore unknown to me as Bebb was himself.
His next work, Godric , published in , was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. The novel, a historical fiction, is written in the first person from the perspective of Saint Godric of Finchale , a 12th-century English hermit.
Brendan , a work of historical fiction like Godric, draws from the life of the 6th-century Irish monk Saint Brendan the Navigator. Experimenting further with the narrative technique Buechner employed to such dramatic effect in Godric, Brendan interweaves history and legend in an evocative portrayal of the sixth-century Irish saint as seen through the eyes of Finn, his childhood friend and loyal follower.
Welcome to the World of Frederick Buechner
It rattles stone on stone. It sucks its teeth. It sings. It hisses like the rain. It roars.
The arrival of the enthusiastic young monk plunges Godric back into his past, and he unflinchingly narrates the ribald tale of his own history, which is carefully edited by Reginald and set down in restrained and laudatory prose more befitting of the life of a saint. Having survived a near drowning in the sea at a young age, Godric leaves home for a life of petty crime — selling counterfeit relics and the ostensibly holy hair of nuns. Following a dreamlike encounter on the Island of Farne with an apparition who identifies himself as Saint Cuthbert , Godric appears set to spend his life seeking God. His meeting with the roguish Roger Mouse, however, puts paid to any notion of quests for personal holiness. The two embark upon a life of crime and villainy aboard their boat, the Saint Espirit, where they hatch a series of schemes to defraud pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land and commit acts of piracy, all the while hoarding their growing stockpile of treasure.