This year I have determined to set aside time to focus on writing and reading about writing. The plan is to inspire meaningful blogs and enable me to eventually put together a memoir of my life experiences. Reading memoir has therefore become my added passionate pastime. Telling Secrets, a memoir by Frederick Buechner, found its way into my collection of must-read books.
In reading the back cover, I find that Frederick Buechner is the author of more than thirty works of fiction and nonfiction. He is a teacher and a theologian who writes with "eloquence, candor, and simplicity." I agree with these well chosen words.
In this small book the author writes so deeply and honestly about his life that I feel he is writing about mine. With many detail differences but with similar conclusions and consequences, I have found myself reacting strongly to his honesty. Having his dad die when he was young led this author to write to discover that losing his dad did not erase the influence this man had on his whole life or how those feelings of loss led him to be the kind of father he was; the kind of man he became. His writing made me reflect on similar discoveries within my own losses.
I am drawn to Buechner's style, in part, because his writing reminds me of the voice of my cherished brother, Dale. He writes, "It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are - even if we tell it only to ourselves - because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are, and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing." Dale could have said that! In addition, like my brother, Buechner expresses the wonder of God - not trying to figure him out, putting him in a box or defining him. Instead he listens, savors, watches, waits and believes in him. I can hear the hush and longing in my brother's voice as he speaks of the mystery and marvel of God. His admiration and delight influenced my own faith journey as I also wonder at the brilliant, untamed, mighty One.
Buechner organizes this book into three chapters, all titled with names of different rooms: a stable, a white tower and a basement room. He describes how he lived with a view from those rooms at different times in his life. I especially identified with the white tower with its two opposite kinds of enclosures: one a bare chapel that is silent and very still, full of purity and peace. But below that wonderful chapel is a terrible dungeon, small, dark and lacking in ventilation. He writes, "I am the White Tower of course. To one degree or another all of us are." This visual description gives words to the contrasting possibilities we find within each of our own hearts.
I will be reading more of his books, and in fact several are on their way from Amazon even now.