Allow me to preface this by telling you that I am a great despiser of gushing reviews. I’d much rather write (or read) a scathing dismemberment of the latest Brett Ratner film or Terry Goodkind book than suffer through four hundred words of overblown hyperbole about even the best of things. But when asked to write some thoughts on Frederick Buechner’s Godric, no amount of distaste for high praise was able to intervene. I hope you’ll take what I say with the understanding that I do not say it readily or lightly.
In my mind, my reading tastes and experiences are sharply divided into what I read before Godric, and what I read after Godric. It is the book that fundamentally altered the way I read and the way I write. It is the novel that moved me to write my own. It is the canon by which I have measured every book read since. Am I gushing?
Buechner tells the story of Saint Godric in such lyrical, colorful and earthy language that it almost sings. It begs you to read it aloud just to hear the form of it. Every word is so clearly measured and thoughtfully chosen that I wonder how Mr. Buechner managed his sanity during its writing. And yet, all this without substance would be but sugar. The root of the book is Godric himself and his understanding of his own, our own, wretchedness. He is a man wholly aware of his own weaknesses and it is that acknowledgment that makes him so lovable. It is also that knowledge of himself that is the wellspring of his love for God. There are passages here that will haunt me forever. From the first sentence: “Five friends I had and two of them snakes.” To the last: “All’s lost; all’s found.” There is no wasted word or thought here and all of it thickened with the beauty of language. This is the finest example I know of Wendell Berry’s economy of words.
Since reading Godric, I can no longer abide reading for reading’s sake or simple story for story’s sake. I have little tolerance for words that merely convey information. Godric opened a window in my mind that has never shut and, God-willing, never will.
I challenge anyone to read this book and not be changed.
Thank you, Mr. Buechner.
Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he’s the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.