Like all great preachers, Buechner inspires his reader through Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale.
Like all good writers, he interests you in his subject—Christian faith
explained in the terms of literary genre—whether or not it’s your
Like all good Presbyterians, Buechner covers his point in an introduction (about
telling the truth, or gospel) followed by three points (about how the truth
is tragedy, comedy, and fairy tale).
The language he uses is rich and full but humble, grand but funny, magical
but realistic, perfectly suiting his message. How can you not get pulled in
by the description of Pontius Pilate as someone who was trying to quit smoking
on the day Jesus of Nazareth was brought be
fore him? And how can you not marvel
at someone who manages to compare Christianity in turn to King Lear, Donald
Duck, and Sleeping Beauty without the slightest sense of ridiculousness or triteness?
Buechner’s secret, I think, is that he attempts to provide analogies for
his faith rather than boxes. He is simultaneously realistic and idealistic,
and altogether genuine. And he’s an all-around excellent writer, communicating
his message in language that’s clear but full of layers. He’s one
of those authors that makes me as a writer want to figure out how he does it,
so I can communicate as well and as richly as he does.
If you want to find out about more of Buechner’s work, read my review
of the Pulitzer-nominated Godric.