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Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale Hardcover – October 26, 1977


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Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale + Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner + The Alphabet of Grace
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Harper & Row; 1 edition (October 26, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060611561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060611569
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A sermon arises out of silence, preacher and writer Frederick Buechner reminds us, and that silence is both an opportunity and a warning. An audience sits in the pews waiting, and each of those who sit there bring with them a long and complicated history. How will you reach them? How will you awaken them? "Tell them the truth," Buechner says in this brief and powerful book. The Gospel begins here, out of this silence: "It is life with the sound turned off so that for a moment or two you can experience it not in terms of the words you make it bearable by but for the unutterable mystery that it is." Out of this silence, he writes, the "real news comes, which is sad news before it is glad news and that is fairy tale last of all."

This series of lectures explores these three ways of seeing the Gospel: first as tragedy, as honest sorrow and suffering--this must be faced before anything else becomes possible. From this comes the comedy of new life: a child born to Abraham and Sarah in old age, Lazarus raised from the dead. This is the folly of the Gospel--what Buechner will ultimately call the fairy tale. Drawing deeply from the well of The Wizard of Oz and other stories, he reminds us in this final chapter that "there is a child in all of us," a child in touch with a truth deeper than the logic of tragedy. --Doug Thorpe

Review

"A beguiling book .... Buechner handles difficult subjects (eternity immortality prayer) with a casual aplomb and easy analogy" -- -- Time

"Journey on, Frederick Buechner. We need your stories to help us make sense of our own." -- New Oxford Review

"One of our most original storytellers." -- USA Today

"Original, pungent and joyful." -- -- The Christian Century

"Thoughtful, spirited, entertaininga dictionary for doubtersand restless believers." -- -- Chicago Tribune

"With profound intelligence, Buechner's [work] does what the finest, most appealing literature does: It displays and illumines the seemingly unrelated mysteries of human character and ultimate ideas." -- Annie Dillard, Boston Globe

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More About the Author

Frederick Buechner is the popular author of such nonfiction titles as Telling the Truth, Wishful Thinking, and Peculiar Treasures. The New York Times Book Review described his recently published memoir, The Sacred Journey, as a "beautifully successful experiment." In addition to The Final Beast, which was originally published in 1965, Mr. Buechner is the author of ten other novels, including the bestselling A Long Day's Dying and, most recently, Godric. He makes his home in Rupert, Vermont.

Customer Reviews

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Most of his books don't even break one hundred pages.
NotATameLion
The Gospels record the tragedy of human failure, the comedy of being loved despite that failure, and the fairy tale of transformation through that love.
Joyce
It is the news that man is a sinner... That is the tragedy.
NYJ

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 90 people found the following review helpful By NotATameLion on May 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
When I took a class in "Christian Mythopoeic authors" I had to give a presentation on an author not discussed in the class. I presented on Frederick Buechner. My focus was on his novel, On the Road with the Archangel. While preparing for this, I found myself reading seven of his other books. Once I picked him up, it was hard to put him down. One of the books that I read was Telling the Truth. I have recently had the pleasure of re-reading it.
Buechner is a shameless recycler of themes and material (King Lear references are found almost everywhere in his writings). Most of his books don't even break one hundred pages. Still, I'd rather sort through Buechner's recyclables than the seven course meals of a lot of other writers.
Telling the Truth is the printed form of lectures Buechner gave on what it means to preach the gospel. He argues that the gospel must be presented in terms of tragedy, comedy, and fairy tale.
The gospel is tragedy because life can be exceedingly dark. We spend so much time trying to pretend, and sometimes believing that everything is fine and dandy. Yet sin is real and it causes death. We all live under the horror of a death sentence that will not be commuted. We live in the valley of the shadow of death. To try and deny this is not to preach but to play games. Too many Christ-followers try to skip over this integral part of life.
The picture Buechner paints of Jesus' silence before Pilate is jarring. It makes me uncomfortable. It must have freaked Pilate out too. This silence and the silence before the preacher speaks are the personification of what the tragedy of the Gospel is. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wage of this "missing of the mark" is death.
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Nathan G. Brown on November 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Frederick Buechner's 'Telling the Truth' is one of those little books, so packed with great things, it needs repeated reading. Not that it is difficult to read, it is just full of huge ideas and grand truth.
Buechner revisits various aspects of the gospel. But his first challenge to the reader is to confront the silence of truth. Using as an example the silence of Jesus in response to Pilate's question "What is truth?", Buechner suggests truth may not be far from the ordinariness of our everyday lives - if only we would pause to realise.
'Telling the Truth' uses the recurring picture of a preacher getting up to preach. Buechner describes in detail the scene in the church, the congregation who have come to the church for so many different reasons and the inadequacies the preacher feels but, as the preacher lays out his notes "like a riverboat gambler, the stakes have never been higher."
'Telling the Truth' considers the gospel as "tragedy, comedy and fairy tale" in turn and ultimately Buechner finds the gospel "a tale that is too good not to be true."
If you only read one book each year, make it 'Telling the Truth' this year - and next year.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Sarah S. Weber on July 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read this book 3 times in as many months, and I will be reading it again. The first time I read it, I was swept away emotionally and ended it feeling totally wrung out, yet still uplifted. The second time I began to understand the meaning. The third time I was able to integrate emotion and thought, and I finally grasp what he means by (1) the truth being found in silence, (2) tragedy as an inevitable part of life, when God seems absent and the world is dark and empty, (3) comedy as the unexpected event, God making himself present in unlikely and unanticipated ways, (4) the fairy tale, too good to be true, where good overcomes evil, light overtakes darkness, and people are transformed; but in the gospel it really is true--and here is joy, but a joy accompanied by tears.
Still there is more to be learned. This book is absolutely a masterpiece of interwoven themes and images, thoughts and emotions, reality and imagination, literature and life.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 1, 1995
Format: Hardcover
"The preacher climbs the stairs to the pulpit and pulls the chain, turning on the light. He deals out his note cards like a riverboat gambler. The stakes have never been higher."</P>

An excellent book on preaching the gospel.</P>

Beuchner presents Pilate, Abraham and Sarah, and others as if they were living today. Tremendous insights.</P>

It is the only book of its kind I've ever read more than once. I've read this one five times.</P>
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael Stephens on November 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A riveting, explosive, whimsical, masterfully-written philosophy of preaching. This book is not just for the preacher, but also every Christian who, with the commission of Christ, is to tell the Story. Yet on the other hand, this book shakes the antics out of the would-be preacher and tells him what he should be in the end picture. Buechner's command of language and literature will leave your head spinning with bedazzlement and great profundity. It is but a short 98-page read, but it's a punch that you might not have been expecting! Read it now!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By NYJ on January 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Gospel is bad news before it is good news. It is the news that man is a sinner... That is the tragedy. But it is also the news that he is loved anyway, cherished, forgiven.... That is the comedy.... In answer, the news of the Gospel is that extraordinary things happen to him just as in fairy tales extraordinary things happen."
And that is the basis for Frederick Buechner's book. That as evangelists we need to remember that the Bible is more than just a book, it starts as tragedy, it becomes so outrageous to be comedic and then amongst it all, God loves us so much that it's a fairy tale. And as with all fairy tales, that all who accept the outcome, the ending is happy. And we must keep all those things in mind. And preach the Bible with love.
Frederick Buechner uses a number of "secular" works to illustrate his points. He points to the tragedy of "King Lear" by Shakespeare, he goes over the fairy tale sof C.S Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and Frank Baum's "The Wizard of Oz".
To illustrate the comedy of the Bible, he turns to the Bible itself, going over the promise of God to Abraham and Sarah about the birth of Isaac, and how they laughed... the idea seemed so preposterous. And it does seem preposterous in a way, the promises of the Bible... so outrageous as to be almost impossible to believe. And that is why the Bible turns out to be fairy tale, because what is "too good to be true" isn't. It happens, and it happens to us.
Buechner writes with colorful prose, but you won't get lost in the verbiage and his meaning will come out crystal clear.
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