Godric, Frederick Buechner

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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?

Godric CoverBuechner 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.

Profile photo of Pete Peterson

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.


13 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Randall Goodgame

    Randall Goodgame

    @randallgoodgame

    I have not read Godric – but now I’m gonna (borrow it from Eric Peters). I had to stop reading the review so as not to spoil anything. And I’m glad there’s no butt sugar involved in any way. Thanks Pete!

  2. Profile photo of Jonathan Rogers

    Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    I read Godric this past summer. It really was an astonishing book–it read very much like poetry, and how Buechner had the energy to maintain that lyrical-ness (is that a word?) for a whole book–even a short book–is more than I know.

    As I’m sure you know, Pete, GODRIC was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I wondered what book could possibly have beaten it out for the prize. If you don’t already know, you will be gratified to hear that A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES won that year. I think I remember AP telling me that was one of your favorites.

  3. Pete Peterson

    Randy, I think I read somewhere that Mr. Beuchner is saving all his Butt Sugar for the sequel.

    Johnathan, I’d always wondered what book it was that beat out Godric for the Pulitzer and I think if it had been any other book I’d get up in arms over it. But man, oh man, Confederacy of Dunces is just some of the best Butt Sugar ever.

  4. Chris R

    Buechner eh? Honestly, guys with names like that intimidate me (I am trying to read Bonhoffer now but his name intimidates me too). Thanks for the review, think this community thing is brilliant. Looking forward to reading more.

  5. brian

    Hi, Pete,
    I, too, have marvelled at Godric ever since reading it about a year ago.

    This book coupled with his Son of Laughter keeps pulling me back. I knew they were good while I read them, but was surprised after reading them that these ancient men, Godric and Jacob, stayed so near the front of my consciousness. They linger still. They changed my thinking about the way mankind is and has for centuries been without my realizing i was doing anything but reading a story.

    I’m as fickle as the next guy, but somehow Beuchner has implanted thoughts and scenes I can’t forget. Godric somehow knowing it was for real when he was baptized; his lusting in dreams that he can’t stop; his coming to grips with the sinner he is; his travelling around the world (what a chore to prepare for this book!) his laugh out loud wit…as I scour the pages for the most memorable quotes (some of which your brother scooped up as lyrics) i’ve decided i must give it a another go.

    Well reviewed, sir.

  6. Caleb Land

    I bought this book because of this review and couldn’t put it down…I finished it last night (luckily it was short…my wife always dreaded when Harry Potter came out). It was one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. I had already read A Confederacy of Dunces, so the fact that it finished second in the Pulitzer to it that year got me even more interested.

    It was just so real. I loved the character and the poetic language really brought the whole thing to life. Now I want to go back and read it again slowly.

  7. Ruble

    So there it is…on page 96…that is where AP gets his lyrics. Now I have to check the liner notes and see if it is listed.

    Chris

  8. Tom Richter

    The joke is on us.

    The book is about Reginald’s gushing over Godric in a book, and begging the reluctant Godric for his blessing on the work. But it is Buechner himself who is reaching out for Godric, hidden reluctant behind history or legend (often the same) and, well, gushing at who he finds.

    And now it is we who gush (rightfully) over Buechner, and give his book our blessing.

    So there you have it.

    Oh, and would someone please give me your blessing on this, my comment? You know, just leave a comment about a comment about a blog about a recent book about an ancient book about Godric?

  9. Profile photo of Pete Peterson

    Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Sorry, but I have a strict policy of never leaving comments about comments about comments about blogs about books about ancient books about grumpy old men.

    …wait a minute…

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