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Speak What We Feel: Not What We Ought to Say (Buechner, Frederick) Paperback – August 31, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Great literature is like a spiritual informant, helping readers derive meaning out of the best of times and the worst of times. In Speak What We Feel, novelist and preacher Frederick Buechner pays homage to the worst of times, examining the life and writings of four esteemed writers and how they each came to terms with despair on the page. The title, Speak What We Feel, alludes to the bravery of William Shakespeare, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Mark Twain, and G.K. Chesterton--all of whom opened the veins to their hearts and let their emotions bleed upon the page. "Vein-opening writers are putting not just themselves into their books, but themselves at their nakedest and most vulnerable," writes Buechner. Not all writers do it all the time, he notes, and many writers never do it at all. "But for the four writers these pages are about, each did it at least once, and that is the most important single thing they have in common."

Writers who are fascinated with the process of creativity will find these essays particularly satisfying, especially the musings on Mark Twain, in which Buechner explains the internal angst that brought Huck Finn to life. Be warned that readers will probably glean more pleasure from this lovingly rendered (but occasionally dry) book if they already possess an appreciation and familiarity with the works of the writers. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

rolific storyteller, memoirist and poet Buechner (The Son of Laughter; Telling the Truth) offers up a set of four uninspiring meditations on the powerful ways in which literature reveals the depths of human vulnerability as well as humankind's constant search to give meaning to the ambiguities of life. He uses a simplistic and rather vague formula to show that our greatest literature has come from writers who poured their life's blood into their work and unveiled their own shortcomings to us. Buechner then selects particular works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mark Twain, G.K. Chesterton and William Shakespeare as examples of the artist's attempt to articulate forthrightly his own deep struggles with sadness, lonesomeness, guilt or the absence of God. Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for example, succeeds in staving off the novelist's loneliness and in "piloting a course around both the darkness of the past and the darkness that he knew awaited him not much further downstream." Similarly, the struggle between good and evil central to Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday simply reflects his own struggle with the "black despair" of depression. By mistakenly reading biography as the foundation for the literature, Buechner fails to grapple with the beauties and the difficulties of the works themselves. It is also hard to understand why he narrowed his selections to these four writers when, given his formula, he could just as easily have chosen Dostoyevsky, Emily Dickinson, Dante or Milton. Not one of Buechner's best.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Buechner, Frederick
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1 edition (August 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062517538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062517531
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #978,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I recently got this book out of the library in order to teach a poem on Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the writers Buechner discusses in the text. I was astonished at Buechner's incredible diction, phrasing, and word pictures. I had not read anything else of his before, but now I want to buy this book! His writing has an incredibly mysitcal quality, which he uses to broaden our knowledge of ability to enjoy four notable authors, while showcasing his own unique vision and humility. The book is moving and gritty - it put me in tears on several occasions, and I do not cry easily. If you are at all a fan of Hopkins, Twain, Chesterton, or Shakeapeare you must read this book!
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Format: Paperback
In this book, Buechner describes the lives and discusses some of the literary works of four well-known writers.

Each of the four has incorporated into his writing clues to some of the lessons learnt from the harsh realities of life. Buechner has always been a strong advocate of "telling it like it is", in contrast to a tendency in parts of the Christian Church to "say what we ought to say".

If you're looking for a writer who's prepared to face up to the sometimes very difficult aspects of life, but who maintains an active faith, this book (and Buechner's other books as well) should prove richly rewarding.

Strongly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
I've read this book a couple times over, picking it up when I'm looking for something enjoyable to re-read. Chapter by chapter, Buechner takes four writers and their stories (Gerard Manley Hopkins' later sonnets, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, and William Shakespeare's King Lear) and weaves a discussion around their lives and works, showing how part of the lasting value of these stories comes from the way in which the authors spoke out of the dark parts of their lives.

I highly recommend this book as a life-giving reflection on the challenges of life and literature.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This was a fun little treat from Frederick Buechner, although I wouldn't say it's his very best. In it, he takes a biographical-historical approach to analyzing the works of four writers: Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mark Twain, G.K. Chesterton and Shakespeare. He demonstrates (with the same pathos and eloquence that characterize all his works) how the genius of these four men stems from one common source: the profound sadness they all experienced in life. The Afterward induced goosebumps in a way that only Buechner knows how to do, although he ended the book with a strange/new-age last line that jarred me out of my revelry and left me feeling confused.
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