Telling the Truth
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Frederick Buechner’s opening line for Telling the Truth may not immediately grab you, as I mentioned in last week’s First Lines post, but don’t let that stop you from reading it anyway.
In 2002, I was introduced to Buechner’s writing by a friend who knew I loved C.S. Lewis. This was the first Buechner book that I read — originally published in 1977, and yet, like Lewis’s work, could’ve been written today.
Three Reasons to Read:
Telling the Truth by Frederick Buechner
1. Buechner tells the truth softly. People often tell “the truth” with harsh words and banging fists. But in this brief book (less than 100 pages!), Buechner lays out the truth with quiet words, with vulnerability, and with silence. He walks you through the tragedy, the comedy, and the fairytale of the Gospel with a surprising honesty, or as he more aptly puts it: if the truth is worth telling, it is worth making a fool of yourself to tell. Not a loud fool per se, more a transparently frail human who holds out gentleness.
2. Buechner’s poetic prose is easy to read and oh-so-quotable. As someone who doesn’t tend to pick up nonfiction books, I was pleasantly surprised by Buechner’s writing style. He has a poet’s soul. His grasp of what lies beneath the surface is made evident through his precise word choice and the literary stories and images of life he chooses to illustrate his points. His depictions of Shakespeare’s King Lear and the Bible‘s Pilate, Sarah, and Lazarus have forever changed my understanding.
3. Buechner tackles hard-to-understand biblical parables. Have you ever been frustrated by Jesus’s parable of The Prodigal Son or his parable of the talents ($ not skills)? Remember how the older brother who did everything right doesn’t get the big party? And the guy who plays it safe with his money gets reprimanded while the one who blows it on a chance gets praised? Buechner suggests these stories exemplify the comedy of the Gospel. Interesting, eh? Worth reading, right?