Customer Reviews: Yellow Leaves: A Miscellany
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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.
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on July 5, 2008
A writer of tremendous integrity, Buechner opens the book with an acknowledgment that this is not one of his great novels, but is, in fact a miscellany. It is the stuff from which other material could be developed. Some is reflective, and much is the stuff of his life - the ground from which creativity flows. I enjoyed the book tremendously, because Buechner has always challenged me. Good read, short. I would give it a 5, but that should be reserved for his other works, like Godric, or The Clown in the Belfry.
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on July 24, 2008
the number of people on this planet who can write like frederick buechner are a tiny, tiny lot. seriously, the dude can put some words into sentences! so, in a sense, i don't care what buechner writes about -- i'll read it, and enjoy it. fiction -- yup. non-fiction -- sure, bring it.

the beek (ah, that's my little pet name for him) hasn't written a full length book in a while. and, as he writes in the forward of this collection, he guesses that ability has left him (i sure hope that isn't true). in the mean time, buechner says he could pull together a collection of essays, scraps of fiction, poems, and family memories, with a sprinkling of faith and church thrown in. somehow, it works.

the best parts of this collection, in my opinion, are the first few pieces -- little memoirs about family members (buechner's mom and brother-in-law, in particular). the whole thing is a bit voyeuristic, looking into a period of time and slice of society that is not my own. buechner comes from east coast, private school, intelligencia, with old money thrown in (buechner's wife is heir to the merck fortune, and his own family, while experiencing some rough times during the depression, did pretty well).

reading often felt a bit like sitting with mr. b in an old but fancy sitting room, somewhere in an old money neighborhood in new england, listening to him tell stories while sipping tea. with milk.

it's a quick read, really, but just lovely. intimate and brilliant.
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on April 14, 2009
Watercolors are sometimes created by having initial, well defined line drawings. Then tinting and hues are applied to add color, depth and interest. This reminds me a lot of The Yellow Leaves. One great advantage to this technique is that the artist is able to define his subject matter with pencil or ink sketches and then allow the fluidity of the watercolors to develop the theme and create sometime unique and, sometimes, wonderful.

This reminds me a lot of The Yellow Leaves. The character outlines are crisp. Buechner then allows the reader to fill in the colors and shades in a way that reflects the reader's perceptions and experience. It is a tricky, but wonderful technique when it is successful. Buechner is usually successful, especially in his poetry which completes the volume. I recommend reading this book slowly and savoring the stories. Let the wash over you and apply your own colors.
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on October 5, 2008
More than once in the past thirty years I have turned to Frederick Buechner for inspiration, information and correction. In the recent past, I have yearned for the fresh insights, fluid writing, and challenge contained in most of his work. But it seems to me that "The Yellow Leaves" offers none of these qualities. Instead, it seems like random collection of the author's musings concerning the privileges of the upper class. From his teaching days at a posh prep school, to his peregrinations through Europe, the author seems more interested in showing us the glories of wealth and status than in confronting us with new truth. Though an outspoken advocate of the unfettered imagination, Mr.Buechner shows little of it in this book.

Obviously keenly aware of his own mortality, the author seems to pay scant attention to its implications either for his own life or that of the reader. Previously he wrote two brief autobiographical sketches that were compelling and of universal interest. While this book alludes to specific details of his life, it employs them for paltry purposes. For example, his long ago Christmas Eve visit to St Peter's once made a compelling sermon illustration, but repeated here, it seems rather limp and purposeless. In fact, by book's end I was unclear what motivated Mr Buechner to publish it. It is neither a travelogue nor a literary piece, but merely a loosely constructed narrative of an individual's experiences, some of which are quite unremarkable.

In the end, I found myself harboring the same hungers with which I began. With the Israelites of old, I found myself asking, "Is there any word from the Lord?" If not, perhaps there are whimsical scraps which could ignite intellectual curiosity or sober reflection. Though the author has not lost his considerable writing talent, it appears that he no longer uses it either to comfort the afflicted or to afflict the comfortable. For that reason I came empty away, though still convinced that this well has not run dry. I hope not. In the past it has refreshed and restored many of us. I hope it will soon do so once more
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on June 6, 2013
I had heard of Buechner but never read his work. Our Sunday morning adult education was looking for short "non intense" pieces for a change. So I ordered. The conversations have beem great.l recommend the book to anyone.
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VINE VOICEon December 15, 2008
The Yellow Leaves is a miscellany of stories from Frederick Buechner. His musings range from Presidents that he has known to his grandmother to Charles Dickens. There is no real theme to this work, but it still ties together nicely.

Buechner's style is slow and deliberate, carefully examining every detail. He makes sure every sense is exercised in his writing, and the result is a descriptive atmosphere, which is alternatively mesmerizing and boring.

Some of the stories are interesting; others seem a bit self-involved and pointless. The first chapter grabbed me instantly. It is the story of his last car ride with his mother, a character that couldn't be invented. Another chapter describes his wanderings in England and France as a youth, and it seems Buechner goes out of his way to mention all the famous people he has met. It starts to get old after a while.

Overall, I wouldn't recommend this book. It has a few interesting anecedotes in it, but not enough to warrant purchasing. There is nothing insightful or spiritually awakening, though it is a well written work.
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on November 7, 2008
I have long admired Frederick Buechner, a good thirty years, to be sure. I still find some of his earliest stuff a treasure of insight and good writing. But I was disappointed at Yellow Leaves. I had hoped for a pleasant collection of mature essays, some aged-in-the-wood Buechnerian soft-spoken wisdom. And there is some of that here and there. But mostly it's rambling and pointless memories of his long, privileged life and not a little bit of name-dropping. His sentences are still well crafted, of course. But they lead to not much that is satisfying on a deeper level.
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on July 31, 2015
Another wonderful book by Fredrick Buechner. I have enjoyed all of his books that I have read
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