A few years ago, I read a collection of pieces by Frederick Buechner because Andrew Peterson mentioned his influence. That's all it ever takes. (except when it comes to Lord of the Rings, not even AP can get me to enjoy those) I remember how I felt like I was reading something different from what I'd ever read before and also something that felt like it was written by a friend..someone who had peeked into my soul and was familiar with it in there. I loved it. So as you do, I started acquiring his other books. The Rabbit Room wouldn't let me forget about him, so I kept acquiring. I read some more but not nearly enough. I'm always thinking, I need to read more Buechner, I need to carve out some time and really sink into his words. It's kind of intimidating when someone has such a huge body of varied work and you're like me constantly flitting around to this, that, and the other thing.
But this summer I went to Hutchmoot and attended the session on Buechner called the Story of Us All. (one of his most famous quotes is, "the story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all.") It really inspired me to hear both Eric Peters and Jason Gray speak of his profound impact on their lives. About this time, I was also going through my reading crisis and I was becoming tempted by these themed weeks I saw others doing. I decided to (and I'm totally intimidated to do this) one around Frederick Buechner as a way to encourage myself to finally sit down and really dig into his body of work.
But I wanted to see what kind of representation he had in the book blogosphere. After all, he has written more than 30 works including fiction, such as Godric which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The answer, according to the book blogger search engine, is not much.
I know this is an unusual theme to take, since he is a writer of faith and largely beloved, I think, for his nonfiction. However, I believe his work is accessible and I'm hoping against hope that some of you will take the plunge and check him out. If you choose not to, I hope you will at least read my blog that week!
Why am I announcing this so early? Because recently a bookstore near me closed. It was the kind of bookstore that sold remaindered books so when they closed they marked everything down to a dollar or less. And to me it seemed like the perfect time to pick up a stack of books for a group read. I have several copies of The Eyes of the Heart: A Memoir of the Lost and Found by Frederick Buechner to give away to people who will agree to read it and discuss it during the week of February 28-March 4th. While you don't have to be a blogger, I hope some of you will be. I may be able to send a few internationally. If you want a copy, please fill out the form, I plan to do this mostly first come first served unless there's a huge response in which case I'll use random.org I know those of us who maintain blogs get busy so we need to schedule things like this early. I sincerely hope some of you will take the plunge with me.
Here's the book's cover copy:
From critically acclaimed author and Pulitzer Prize runner-up Frederick Buechner comes another powerfully honest memoir, The Eyes of the Heart. Full of poinant insights into his most personal relationships, this moving account traces how the author was shaped as much by his family's secrets as by its celebrations.Within the innermost chambers of his consciousness, Buechner, in his characteristically self-searching style, explores the mysteries and truths behind his deepest connections to family, friends, and mentors. Extraordinarily moving, this memoir follows not chronology but the converging paths of Buechner's imagination and memory.
Buechner invites us into his library-his own Magic Kingdom, Surrounded by his beloved books and treasures, we discover how they serve as the gateway to Buechner's mind and heart. He draws the reader into his recollections, moving seamlessly from reminiscence to contemplation. Buechner recounts events such as the tragic suicide of his father and its continual fallout on his life, intimate and little-known details about his deep friendship with the late poet James Merrill, and his ongoing struggle to understand the complexities of his relationship to his mother.
This cast of characters comprised of Buechner's relatives and loved ones is brought to vibrant life by his peerless writing and capacity to probe the depths of his own consciousness. Buechner visits his past with an honest eye and a heart open to the most painful and life-altering of realizations. heartbreaking and enlightening, The Eyes of the Heart is a treasure for any who have ever pondered the meaning and mystery of their own past.
As "one of our finest writers," according to author Annie Dillard, Frederick Buechner provides yet another chapter in the tale of his life in this gripping memoir tracing the complicated roots and path of his inner life and family, with their multitude of intersections." The Eyes of the Heart stands as a touching testimonial to the significance of kinship to the author as well as to the legions of readers who have come to regard him as one of their own.
What Else Can You Expect?
I have a lot of plans for the week, some are still in the works. I plan to review some of his books, write about some of his ideas, share his biography, and lastly if you are someone who loves his work and would like to share, I'm accepting guest posts, please feel free to fill out the form and let me know if you're interested. In short, I want this to be a week that encourages you to read for a first time, or read more of one of the most important writers of faith I know. If you read any book of his and review it during that week, I'll excerpt your review here.
In case I haven't been very persuasive, let me leave you with a bit of Eric Peter's essay from Hutchmoot. (what good luck he posted it yesterday!)
But perhaps Buechner’s greatest gift to me is not in what he actually says, but what he does not say. He never forces me to believe or to think a certain way; he simply observes and reflects, leaving me the time, space, freedom and dignity to observe, ponder and absorb the picture myself. Never forceful, never obtuse, never condemning, never narrow-minded or shortsighted, but always vivid, poetic, genuine and with a beauty born out of humility, and a humility born of Beauty itself, Buechner allows for what many in the Church see as dichotomy: faith and doubt, light and dark, knowledge and mystery. It allows for that most dangerous of existences: the opportunity to be yourself, the fool God made you to be, and in that originality to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are never alone.