Top positive review
40 people found this helpful
Before There Was Rob Bell, Anne Lamott and Brian McLaren, There Was - and Still Is - Frederick Buechner
on July 15, 2008
Frederick Buechner was - and remains - a pioneer in spiritual memoir.
A promising literary light whose works have attracted the attention of even New York's inner circle, Buechner dared to move further and further along his spiritual journey. He admits that his ordination as a Presbyterian minister was a terrible career move for a serious writer. He did it anyway. And, he's not easily categorized as a "Christian writer," either. His memoirs with titles like "Telling Secrets" through "The Longing for Home" are almost impossible to classify with our oh-so-easy labels of "evangelical" or "emergent," "progressive" or "conservative." He wrote them, anyway, and they found a loyal audience of thousands. Over time, his books have formed one the great spiritual reflections on life in turn-of-the-millennium America.
A clear theme emerges in these more than 30 volumes of memoir, fiction and nonfiction - a clear character to the relationship Buechner has been building with us. His overarching theology of writing goes something like this: Fundamentally, he argues in one book after another, we tell our stories because we have a deep yearning to participate in a far greater story. Whatever terrible secrets we think we are concealing, we soon discover that they weave themselves into a far, far larger narrative. And, in telling those stories, ultimately, we find ourselves in a community not only with other storytellers, but with the ultimate Storyteller.
That's why you should buy and read "Yellow Leaves." If you flip through it in a bookstore, you might mistake this slim volume for a late-in-life after thought. You would be mistaken. Within these 133 pages are some of the "yellow leaves" left toward the end of the season - vividly hanging from the limbs in Buechner's garden. In his mid-80s now, his reflections aren't the brawling spiritual wrestling match of "Godric" or the grand literary feat of "Bebb" or even the moving dramas of "Telling Secrets" or "Longing for Home."
These are last leaves. And what leaves they are! In this volume, Buechner gives us the spiritual gem of his catalytic evening with Maya Angelou; then he waves a wand and takes us with him back into Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol;" then another wave and we're attending a 1943 family picnic where he nervously gets to his feet as a boy and dares to read a poem and speak "simple truth." And, of course, the greatest spiritual gem in the book - the one-page Introduction of a memoirist now in his mid-80s, invoking Shakespeare's own "yellow leaves."
After all these years, Buechner fans, you can't miss this one. And newcomers? Here's a sparkling, multi-faceted showcase of this master's eye, ear - and heart.