SPEAK WHAT WE FEEL (NOT WHAT WE OUGHT TO SAY): Reflections on Literature and Faith

Frederick Buechner, Author . Harper San Francisco $22 (176p) ISBN 978-0-06-251752-4

Prolific 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 fromwriters 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. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Ebook - 176 pages - 978-0-06-175267-4
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Ebook - 176 pages - 978-0-06-149611-0
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 176 pages - 978-0-06-149609-7
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