"Reading Buechner" by Jeffrey Munroe. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Storytelling is a gift. I'm not sure I have it, but I'm always intrigued when I stumble across an author or speaker who can capture my attention. I have heard for many years that Frederick Buechner is one of those master raconteurs. So I was interested when Jeffrey Munroe, executive vice president at Western Theological Seminary and a charter member of the advisory board of the Buechner Institute of Faith and Culture, put forth this new 232-page paperback "Reading Buechner: Exploring the Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher." It's an easy read, delving into the life, times, trauma and lyrical abilities of Frederick Buechner, and giving dabblers and fans alike a fresh, factual portrait written by an enthusiastic admirer.
Munroe walks through Buechner's works both chronologically and systematically. He comes at his task in waves: Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and finally, Preacher - exactly as listed in the book's subtitle. Yet while wading us through this fourfold swell, the author weaves in details of Buechner's life and how they affected his writings. He simultaneously gives brief surveys of some of the subject's major works. This volume is peppered with Buechner one-liners, and complete paragraphs, to give the uninitiated a sizable taste of Buechner's skill, as well as to make Munroe's various points. One of the assets of this manuscript is that it lays out for readers an idea of the intended audience Buechner wrote for in his varied genres. For example, Mueller claims that the "intended audience for the fiction has always been the religiously indifferent reader" (74), whereas his popular theological works were meant for "a wide, popular (nonacademic) audience" (109). I always find this type of knowledgeable decoding helpful, especially when reading someone whose divergent styles are different strokes for different folks.
Many of my friends have read Frederick Buechner to great advantage. For myself, I've only read one of his volumes and that was in the middle of the 1980s. I couldn't tell you anything about the book, other than recalling a scene portraying Abraham, Sarah, and Yahweh laughing. I mentioned it to an Air Force chaplain who quickly asked if he could borrow my copy and would return it swiftly. I haven't seen it since, and never gave it a second thought. But as a result of reading this book, my interest in Buechner is piqued and my motivation to take up some of his volumes has resurfaced. I highly recommend this book.
Thanks to IVP who happily sent a copy of the book used for this review, at my request. They made not demands on me other than an honest assessment. I have fulfilled my obligation anon, and present it to you.
For those interested in obtaining a copy of the book, go here: Reading Buechner
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