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Frederick Buechner photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1950
|Born||Carl Frederick Buechner|
July 11, 1926
New York City
|Occupation||Author, Presbyterian Minister|
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
|Genres||Novel, short story, essay, sermon, autobiography, historical fiction|
|Notable award(s)||O. Henry Award, the Rosenthal Award, the Christianity and Literature Belles Lettres Prize|
Frederick Buechner photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1950
|Born||Carl Frederick Buechner|
July 11, 1926
New York City
|Occupation||Author, Presbyterian Minister|
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
|Genres||Novel, short story, essay, sermon, autobiography, historical fiction|
|Notable award(s)||O. Henry Award, the Rosenthal Award, the Christianity and Literature Belles Lettres Prize|
Carl Frederick Buechner is an American writer and theologian. Born July 11, 1926 in New York City, he is an ordained Presbyterian minister and the author of more than thirty published books thus far. His work encompasses different genres, including fiction, autobiography, essays and sermons, and his career has spanned six decades. Buechner’s books have been translated into many languages for publication around the world. He is best known for his works A Long Day’s Dying (his first work, published in 1950); The Book of Bebb, a tetralogy based on the character Leo Bebb published in 1979; Godric, a first person narrative of the life of the medieval saint, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1981; Brendan, a second novel narrating a saint’s life, published in 1987; Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner (1992); and his autobiographical works The Sacred Journey (1982), Now and Then (1983), Telling Secrets (1991), and The Eyes of the Heart: Memoirs of the Lost and Found (1999). He has been called "Major talent" and "…a very good writer indeed" by the New York Times, and "one of our most original storytellers" by USA Today. Annie Dillard (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek) says: "Frederick Buechner is one of our finest writers." 
Buechner’s work has often been praised for its ability to inspire readers to see the grace in their daily lives. As stated in the London Free Press, "He is one of our great novelists because he is one of our finest religious writers."  He has been a finalist for the National Book Award  Presented by the National Book Foundation and the Pulitzer Prize, and has been awarded eight honorary degrees from such institutions as Yale University and the Virginia Theological Seminary. In addition, Buechner has been the recipient of the O. Henry Award, the Rosenthal Award, the Christianity and Literature Belles Lettres Prize, and has been recognized by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He is continually listed among the most read authors by Christian audiences.
Carl Frederick Buechner, the eldest son of Katherine Kuhn and Carl Frederick Buechner Sr., was born on July 11, 1926 in New York City. During Buechner’s early childhood the family moved frequently, as Buechner’s father searched for work. In The Sacred Journey Buechner recalls: "Virtually every year of my life until I was fourteen, I lived in a different place, had different people to take care of me, went to a different school. The only house that remained constant was the one where my maternal grandparents lived in a suburb of Pittsburgh called East Liberty…Apart from that one house on Woodland Road, home was not a place to me when I was a child. It was people." This changed in 1936, when Buechner’s father committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, a result of his conviction that he had been a failure. Immediately afterwards, the family moved to Bermuda, where they remained until World War II forced the evacuation of Americans from the island. In Bermuda, Buechner experienced “the blessed relief of coming out of the dark and unmentionable sadness of my father’s life and death into fragrance and greenness and light.”
Buechner then attended the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, graduating in 1943. While at Lawrenceville, he met the future Pulitzer Prize winning poet James Merrill; their friendship and rivalry inspired the literary ambitions of both. As Mel Gussow wrote in Merrill’s 1995 obituary: "their friendly competition was an impetus for each becoming a writer." Buechner then enrolled at Princeton University. His college career was interrupted by military service in World War II (1944–46), but he returned to graduate with a degree in English in 1948. Upon graduation, he returned to the Lawrenceville School as a teacher of creative writing.
During his senior year at Princeton, Buechner received the Irene Glascock Prize for poetry, and he also began working on his first novel and one of his greatest critical successes: A Long Day’s Dying, published in 1950. Of this first book Buechner says,
The publication of A Long Day’s Dying catapulted Buechner into early and, in his own words, "undeserved" fame. Buechner’s dense, reflective style was compared to Henry James and Marcel Proust, and he was hailed as one of the rising stars of American literature. In a long and distinguished career, A Long Day’s Dying continues to be one of Buechner’s most successful works, both critically and commercially (it was reissued in 2003). However, his second novel, The Season’s Difference, published in 1952, in Buechner’s words, "fared as badly as the first one had fared well." The contrast between the success of his first novel and the commercial failure of the second was starkly visible, and it was on this note that Buechner left his teaching position at Lawrenceville to move to New York City and focus on his writing career.
In 1952, Buechner began lecturing at New York University, and once again received critical acclaim for his short story "The Tiger," published in The New Yorker, which won the O. Henry Award in 1955. Also during this time, he began attending the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, where George Buttrick was pastor. It was during one of Buttrick’s sermons that Buechner heard the words that inspired his ordination: Buttrick described the inward coronation of Christ as taking place in the hearts of those who believe in him "among confession, and tears, and great laughter." The impact of this phrase on Buechner was so great that he eventually entered the Union Theological Seminary in 1954, on a Rockefeller Brothers Theological Fellowship.
Buechner’s decision to enter the seminary had come as a great surprise to those who knew him. Even George Buttrick, whose words had so inspired Buechner, observed that, "It would be a shame to lose a good novelist for a mediocre preacher."  Nevertheless, Buechner’s ministry and writing have ever since served to enhance each other’s message.
Following his first year at Union, Buechner decided to take the 1955-6 school year off to continue his writing. In the spring of 1955, shortly before he left Union for the year, Buechner met his wife Judith at a dance given by some family friends. They were married a year later by James Muilenberg in Montclair, N.J., and spent the next four months traveling in Europe. During this year, Buechner also completed his third novel, The Return of Ansel Gibbs.
After his sabbatical, Buechner returned to Union to complete the two further years necessary to receive a Bachelor of Divinity. He was ordained on June 1, 1958 at the same Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church where he had heard George Buttrick preach four years earlier. Buechner was ordained as an evangelist, or minister without pastoral charge. Shortly before graduation, as he considered his future role as minister of a parish, he had received a letter from Robert Russell Wicks, formerly the Dean of the Chapel at Princeton, and now serving as school minister at Phillips Exeter Academy; Wicks had offered him the job of instituting a new, full-time religion department at Exeter. Buechner decided to take the opportunity to return to teaching, and to develop a program that taught religion in depth.
In September 1958, the Buechners moved to Exeter. There, Buechner faced the challenge of creating a new department and academically rigorous curriculum that would challenge the often cynical views of his new students. "My job, as I saw it, was to defend the Christian faith against its "cultured despisers," to use Schleiermacher’s phrase. To put it more positively, it was to present the faith as appealingly, honestly, relevantly, and skillfully as I could." During his tenure at Exeter, Buechner taught courses in both the Religion and English departments, and served as school chaplain and minister. Also during this time, the family grew to include three daughters. For the school year 1963-4, the Buechners took a sabbatical on their farm in Rupert, VT, during which time Buechner returned to his writing; his fourth book, The Final Beast, was published in 1965. As the first book he had written since being ordained, The Final Beast represented a new style for Buechner, one in which he combined his dual callings as minister and as author.
Buechner recalls of his accomplishments at Exeter: "All told, we were there for nine years with one year’s leave of absence tucked in the middle, and by the time we left, the religion department had grown from only one full-time teacher, namely myself, and about twenty students, to four teachers and something in the neighborhood, as I remember, of three hundred students or more." Among these students was the future author John Irving, who included a quotation from Buechner in the preface of his book A Prayer for Owen Meany. One of Buechner's biographers, Marjorie Casebier McCoy, describes the effect of his time at Exeter as follows: "Buechner in his sermons had been attempting to reach out to the "cultured despisers of religion." The students and faculty at Phillips Exeter had been, for the most part, just that when he had arrived at the school, and it had been they who compelled him to hone his preaching and literary skills to their utmost in order to get a hearing for Christian faith."
After nine years at Exeter, and the successful establishment of the Religion Department, the Buechners felt that it was time for a change. In the summer of 1967, the whole family moved to their farmhouse in Rupert to live year-round. Buechner describes their house in Now and Then:
There Buechner realized the challenge of writing without the structure of school life around him. He describes the creation of his next novel, The Entrance to Porlock, as follows: "…the labor of writing which was so painful that I find it hard, even now, to see beyond the memory of the pain to whatever merit it may have." However, in 1968, Buechner received a letter from Charles Price, the chaplain at Harvard, inviting him to give the Noble Lectures series in the winter of 1969. His predecessors in this role were none other than Richard Niebuhr and George Buttrick, and Buechner was both flattered and daunted by the idea of joining so august a group. When he voiced his concerns, Price replied that he should write "something in the area of "religion and letters."" Thence came the idea to write about the everyday events of life "as the alphabet through which God, of his grace, spells out his words, his meaning, to us. So The Alphabet of Grace was the title I hit upon, and what I set out to do was to try to describe a single representative day of my life in a way to suggest what there was of God to hear in it." This process showed Buechner a way out of the frustration he had felt while writing The Entrance to Porlock: by drawing on his own experience, he found the means to convey his thoughts through his writing.
It was about this time, when Buechner was giving the Noble Lectures, that he came across the character that proved so significant in his later career:
The Book of Bebb tetralogy proved to be one of Buechner’s most well-known works. Published in the years from 1972–1977, it brought Buechner to a much wider audience, and gained him critical acclaim (Lion Country, the first book in the series, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1971). Of writing the series, Buechner says: "I had never known a man like Leo Bebb and was in most ways quite unlike him myself, but despite that, there was very little I had to do by way of consciously, purposefully inventing him. He came, unexpected and unbidden, from a part of myself no less mysterious and inaccessible than the part where dreams come from; and little by little there came with him a whole world of people and places that was as heretofore unknown to me as Bebb was himself." In this series, Buechner experimented for the first time with first-person narrative, and discovered that this, too, opened new doors. His next work, Godric, published in 1980, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Like Leo Bebb, Godric, a 12th-century English saint, tells his story in the first-person, and Buechner took great care to recreate the sounds and rhythm of his speech.
In Brendan, published in 1987, Buechner once again drew inspiration from the life of a complex man of faith in a bygone era. Experimenting further with the narrative technique Buechner employed to such dramatic effect in Godric, Brendan interweaves history and legend in an evocative portrayal of the sixth-century Irish saint as seen through the eyes of Finn, his childhood friend and loyal follower. Buechner's colorful recreation of the Celtic world of fifteen hundred years ago earned him the Christianity and Literature Belles Lettres Prize in 1987.
The process of writing Godric once again indicated a new path for Buechner: the writing of his own autobiography. To date, this includes four volumes: The Sacred Journey (1982), Now and Then (1983), Telling Secrets (1991), The Eyes of the Heart (1999). Buechner has thus far published over thirty works, and continues to write more; his latest book, Yellow Leaves, was released in 2008.
In 2007, Buechner was presented with the lifetime achievement award from the Conference on Christianity and Literature.
Frederick Buechner's lifelong love affair with Bermuda began with his family’s escape from the trauma of his father's suicide. In Telling Secrets, Buechner described “the blessed relief of coming out of the dark and unmentionable sadness of my father’s life and death into fragrance and greenness and light.” Bermuda was “a place where healing could happen in a way that perhaps would not have been possible anywhere else and to a degree that—even with all the endurance, will, courage we might have been able to muster had we stayed [in New Jersey]—I do not think we could ever have achieved on our own.” For a child who had never known familial stability even before his father’s death, Bermuda became home. As Buechner explained, “In that never-never land, that Oz of an island, where we had no roots, I found for the first time a sense of being rooted.” “All in all it seems to me, looking back, that I lived there with a greater sense of permanence than any place we had lived earlier.”
But for the young Buechner Bermuda was also a new world of “magic and mystery,” his own personal Land of Oz. It was Prospero’s island from Shakespeare’s The Tempest come to life in all its spellbinding wonder. It was an island of “brightness and peace” that enabled him finally to see those closest to him as “creatures of our own new legends,” the place where he discovered a best friend in his younger brother, Jamie, as they fished off the terrace of their salmon colored house in Paget—The Moorings, flew kites over the water in the harbor, and braved the pedagogical oddities of the Warwick Academy. It was on this island that was “more dreamlike than any other place I have known since or ever hope to know” where, sitting beside the girl whose mouth turned up at the corners on a crumbling stone wall at Salt Kettle, Buechner first felt the “sweet panic and anguish” of Eros. And so, for those magical years before the outbreak of World War II, Buechner lived like a “king” in Bermuda “with a sense of the magic and mystery of things greater than I had ever experienced this side of Oz.”
Bermuda has been a part of Buechner’s writing ever since, from the appearance in his first poetic dabblings at Princeton of the kites he and his classmates on the island flew on Good Friday to the pivotal events he touchingly recounts in his soul-stirring memoirs. Even the longings of his fictional characters whose recollections of the “gorgeous smell” of “cedar wood and kerosene stoves and sun-tan oil and horse” and the narrow-gauge trolley with the wicker armchairs echo Buechner’s own happy memories of his personal Land of Oz.
Bermuda was also a key source of literary inspiration when Buechner wrote The Storm, which combined elements of Shakespeare's The Tempest with his knowledge of Bermudian life and social structures. A key character in the book was reputedly based upon a socialite living in Hamilton in the 1980s. 
As the literary ambassador of pre-World War II Bermuda, Buechner offers readers a vivid guided tour of an enchanted time, recounting in exquisite detail its sights and sounds and smells and tastes: cedar-laden, salt-sweet air; houses of sky blue and rose, lemon yellow and lavender, and pastel green; rain moving in curtains across the harbor; pale pink coral beaches; flat, sweet yellow buns; skies full of gulls; rum swizzles on the balcony at Twenty One; miles of coral roads, their chalky smell drying in the rain after a storm; the battered ferry chugging along with its stern nearly awash under a load of bicycles; the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages, the carriages’ fringed roofs, the chime of their bells. For Buechner, this lush detail is all part of the “sense of another time that I will carry with me to the end of my time.”
The images he internalized from those formative years in Bermuda—the “priest trudging down the sun-drenched Bermuda lane, and the man with the beard who met all the ships when they docked and searched all the faces”—would, over time, prove foundational to Buechner’s faith as well. Bermuda was, in a way, his family’s salvation, “the promised land of pre-World War II Bermuda that we reached through the wilderness and bewilderness of our first shock and grief.” It was also a time in Buechner’s life marked by intellectual, spiritual and emotional growth and exploration. Bermuda is therefore central to Buechner’s theology as he came to view his deliverance in that enchanting isle “as a gift that implies a giver,” an example of that “crazy, holy grace” that sends us experiences not by mere accident of chance but to “open our hearts as well as our eyes.” It was in Bermuda that Buechner “caught some bright foreshadowing” of the “the secret place of the Most High” that he believed “dwells in all of us as the image of God and in which . . . some part of all of us dwells.” This is why, when Buechner’s character Rooney in The Final Beast is asked to pick one word to describe the power of Bermuda, she says “life . . . . It had the smell of life to me.” Buechner found a new life in Bermuda. It marked a new beginning for him, emotionally and spiritually. “In the midst of all that [the fields of Easter lilies and Bermuda onions, the white coral roads, the pink coral beaches, the aquamarine, turquoise and celery green of the Gulf Stream waters, the fragrant air], for me, everything that had come earlier vanished without a trace.”
In fact, despite the evocative imagery of Bermuda throughout Buechner’s autobiographical work, his writing actually underrepresents the island’s profound and lasting significance to him, in part because conveying the wonder of this magical world that so captivated his imagination, the feeling that has stayed with him all of his life of “living there and breathing that air,” proved a difficult undertaking.
The legacy of Buechner’s time in Bermuda has, however, manifested in other respects in his writing and in his life. While he often refers to the natural beauty of Bermuda’s island landscape—the “unutterable, blinding blue-green flash of the ocean” and its “unkempt greenness” —and its idyllic island charms—the “narrow-gauge Toonerville Trolley of a railway with wicker armchairs for seats” and the pastel houses “with their blinding white roofs stepped to catch the rain” —the distinctly British flavor of pre-World War II Bermuda also instilled in him an enduring love of English custom and culture. Amidst the sounds and textures Buechner recalls from his days in Bermuda, he writes of “the sound and feel of English money—the heavy coppers and florins and half crowns that weighed down your pockets, the thin little sixpences and threepenny bits, the pound notes with the King’s picture on them.” Traces of the United Kingdom were all around him: “I remember the public library with a park behind it where a British regiment called the Sherwood Foresters gave band concerts underneath a huge India rubber tree, and a bookstore that smelled the way a new book printed in England does when you first open it.” That smell, “faintly like nutmeg, dry, erudite,” stayed with Buechner the rest of his life. Details from the island’s celebration of the coronation of George the Sixth—for which Buechner and his classmates “helped drag brushwood to the top of a hill for a bonfire” and went around “lighting bonfires on all the hills in Bermuda”—appear throughout his memoirs. Thus, in The Eyes of the Heart, Buechner recalls the “royal governor who on state occasions such as the coronation of George VI wore a cocked hat with white plumes on it like the captain of the Pinafore.”
Later this affinity for Great Britain prompted Buechner to make frequent sojourns and visits to the United Kingdom. He cultivated profound, enduring, and mutually supportive relationships with prominent Britons. He spoke regularly at Westminster Abbey and Salisbury and was friendly with former deans, The Very Rev. Michael Mayne (Westminster) and The Very Rev. Hugh Dickinson (Salisbury). In fact, his most recent collection, The Yellow Leaves, was dedicated to the memory of Michael Mayne and, with love, to his wife Allison. In that work, Buechner expresses “the feeling that from the beginning I had had in England that in some sense I had come home, the feeling I had always had, in Westminster Abbey especially, that all the dead past enshrined there was far from dead in me.”
The literary imagination that first started to hum in Bermuda ultimately found in Great Britain the inspiration for some of Buechner’s most influential and acclaimed works of fiction. Buechner’s Godric tells the story of Saint Godric of Finchale from the first-person perspective of the 12th-century English saint himself. In this pivotal work, Buechner took great care to recreate the sounds and rhythm of Godric’s speech. This fictional retelling of the saint’s life earned Buechner a Pulitzer Prize nomination and garnered the respect of critics in the United States and the United Kingdom. In Brendan, Buechner returned to the fertile territory of early Christian mythology. Again, Buechner painstakingly recreated a foregone era on the British Isles.
Frederick Buechner is among the most widely read contemporary Christian authors. His popularity is attested by numerous awards and honorary degrees, and by the words of his many fans: "To this day, you’ve remained one of my best angels, and not just mine, but all of ours who, week after week, trust that our nicked and ragged selves, however hard we try to press them, will somehow serve to bring God’s truth to life."
In 2001, Californian rock band, "Daniel Amos" released a double album titled "Mr. Buechner's Dream." The album contains over thirty songs and pays tribute to Frederick Buechner, "who has been a major inspiration on the band's lyrics for years." The C.D. version of the album contains a picture of Buechner holding a note which says "I enjoyed my dream."
In the words of The Reverend Samuel Lloyd, former dean of Washington National Cathedral, Buechner’s words "have nurtured the lives of untold seekers and followers" through "his capacity to see into the heart of every day."
Buechner's readers are intrigued and inspired by the confluence of genres within his works:
Buechner's combination of literary style with approachable, universally applicable subject matter has, to many of his fans, revolutionized contemporary Christian literature: "In my view, Buechner is doing a distinctively new thing on the literary scene, writing novels that are theologically exciting without becoming propaganda, and doing theology with artistic style and imagination." Buechner's earliest works, written before his entrance into Union Theological Seminary, were hailed as profoundly literary works, notable for their dense, descriptive style. Of his first novel, A Long Day's Dying, David Daiches wrote: "There is a quality of civilized perception here, a sensitive and plastic handling of English prose and an ability to penetrate to the evanescent core of a human situation, all proclaiming major talent." From this promising beginning, however, it has been the application of Buechner's literary talent to theological issues that has continued to fascinate his audience:
Of his more recent style, the pastor and author Brian D. McLaren says:
Throughout Buechner's work his hallmark as a theologian and autobiographer is his regard for the appearance of the divine in daily life. By examining the day-to-day workings of his own life, Buechner seeks to find God's hand at work, thus leading his audience by example to similar introspection. The Reverend Samuel Lloyd describes his "capacity to see into the heart of every day," an ability that reflects the significance of daily events onto the reader's life as well. In the words of the preacher Barbara Brown Taylor: "From [Buechner] I've learned that the only limit to the revelation going on all around me is my willingness to turn aside and look."
Inaugurated in 2008 at King University the former King College, the Buechner Institute is dedicated to the work and example of Frederick Buechner, exploring the intersections and collisions of faith and culture that define our times.
Dale Brown, the founding director of the Buechner Institute, is the author of numerous articles and the recent critical biography, The Book of Buechner: A Journey Through His Writings.
The Buechner Institute sponsors convocations on most Mondays at 9:15 a.m. in Memorial Chapel on the campus of King University that feature speakers from a variety of backgrounds who examine the ways in which faith informs art and public life and cultivate conversation about what faith has to do with books, politics, social discourse, music, visual arts, and more.
Additionally, the Buechner Institute sponsors the Annual Buechner Lecture. The following is the list of lecturers invited to speak thus far:
A summer symposium on the work of Frederick Buechner, Buechnerfest, was featured in 2010 and 2012. Attendees from around the country spent a week of reading and entertainment on the Virginia/Tennessee border.
The work of the Institute is guided by a local Governing Board and a National Advisory Board. National board members include Doris Betts, Walter Brueggemann, Scott Cairns, Michael Card, Elizabeth Dewberry, Tim Gautreaux, Philip Gulley, Ron Hansen, Roy Herron, Silas House, Richard Hughes, Thomas G. Long, Tom Lynch, Brian McLaren, Carrie Newcomer, Kathleen Norris (poet), Katherine Paterson, Eugene H. Peterson, Charles Pollard, Barbara Brown Taylor, Will Willimon, John Wilson, Philip Yancey, and others.
Buechner's work has been praised highly by many reviewers of books, with the distinct exception of his second novel, The Season’s Difference, which was universally panned by critics and remains his biggest commercial flop. His later novels, including the Book of Bebb series and Godric, received hearty praise; in his 1980 review of Godric, Benjamin DeMott summed up a host of positive reviews, saying “All on his own, Mr. Buechner has managed to reinvent projects of self-purification and of faith as piquant matter for contemporary fiction, producing in a single decade a quintet of books each of which is individual in concerns and knowledge, and notable for literary finish.” In 1982, author Reynolds Price greeted Buechner’s The Sacred Journey as “a rich new vein for Buechner – a kind of detective autobiography” and “[t]he result is a short but fascinating and, in its own terms, beautifully successful experiment.”
Buechner has occasionally been accused of being too “preachy;” a 1984 review by Anna Shapiro in the New York Times notes “But for all the colloquialism, there is something, well, preachy and a little unctuous about making yourself an exemplar of faith. Insights that would do for a paragraph are dragged out with a doggedness that will presumably bring the idea home to even the most resistant and inattentive.” The sentiments expressed by Cecelia Holland’s 1987 Washington Post review of Buechner’s novel, Brendan, are far more common. She writes,“In our own time, when religion is debased, an electronic game show, an insult to the thirsty soul, Buechner's novel proves again the power of faith, to lift us up, to hold us straight, to send us on again.”
In 2008, the 50th anniversary of Buechner's ordination, Rich Barlowe wrote of Buechner in the Boston Globe, "Who knows? The words are Frederick Buechner's mantra. Over the course of an hourlong chat with the writer and Presbyterian minister in his kitchen, they recur any number of times in response to questions about his faith and theology. Dogmatic religious believers would dismiss the two words as the warning shot of doubt. But for Buechner, it is precisely our doubts and struggles that mark us as human. And that insight girds his theological twist on Socrates: The unexamined human life is a lost chance to behold the divine." In 2002, Richard Kauffman interviewed Buechner for The Christian Century upon the publication of Speak What We Feel (Not What We Ought to Say). Buechner answered the question "Do you envision a particular audience when you write?" by saying "I always hope to reach people who don't want to touch religion with a ten-foot pole. The cultured despisers of religion, Sehleiermacher called them. Maybe some of my books reach them. But most of my readers, as far as I can tell, aren't that type. Many of them are ministers. They say, 'You've given us something back we lost and opened up doors we didn't think could be opened for people.'" 
Buechner has also played literary critic himself. In 1980 Buechner reviewed Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth by J. R. R. Tolkien, noting that the book was “in short, a production less of Tolkien himself than of the Tolkien industry.”
Buechner’s largest presence in the media, however, is through the hundreds of readers who quote his works  on a daily basis in articles, blogs, and speeches. Writers include his quotes in pieces for The Flint Times in Michigan, The Kansas City Star, The West Australian News, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, The New Zealand Herald, and the Pembroke Observer in Ontario.
"This work, filled with recollections of people close to him who have passed on to another life, features a dialogue with his grandmother. Naya, as he calls her, died in 1961 but comes into his study imaginatively for a dialogue about eternal life. When Fred asks her if she sees people she used to know, her answer proves provocative: "Words like see don't do very well on this side of things. But yes, they are here. They are part of what, ever so slowly, we move deeper and deeper toward, or into, or through—whatever the preposition is. They are part of what we begin little by little to un-derstand at last." Much else follows that will pique the inner life of readers willing to move beyond surfaces. Buechner finds in other deceased family members and friends, continuing presences that stir his imagination and induce him to revalue human experience transformed by a loving God." – Richard Griffin 
"'Wishful Thinking' is a new lexicon, a dictionary for the restless believer, for the doubter, for anyone who wants to redefine or define more concretely those words that have become an integral part of our daily language—words that we use about God, the universe and, last but never least, humankind. This is Buechner's debonair definition of "doubt": "Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don't have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving." With such wit and wisdom, imagination and innovation, we are led to a fuller awareness and greater understanding of the true relevance of familiar terms to each of our own lives." – Senior Pastor Steve Petty, St. Andrew's By-the-Sea United Methodist Church, San Clemente 
"Like all of Buechner's stories, this one will make you laugh and cry. You will also contemplate with wonder that, even among modern fragmented families and sin, love and grace are never far away." – Rev John Congram on The Storm 
"In the hands of a less skilled writer, the use of a resurrected conversation partner might seem contrived. Here it successfully combines an intimate conversation with a hint at a revelatory vision. Buechner is neither sentimental nor detached, gloomy nor unduly optimistic. He listens to his fears, anxieties and hopes and illuminates our own experience of the death of those close to us." – David M. May on The Eyes of the Heart: A Memoir of the Lost and Found 
"He's sort of earthy, he writes well... What can I say? He writes these little gems and he writes these big ambitious things... The characters are good and they have distinct voices. He's good with voice... Above all else he's a novelist. He's a literary man." – Annie Dillard, author of the best-selling Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 
"Those familiar with Buechner will feel like they've run into an old friend in the grocery store. Readers new to the author will probably develop a love affair with his ability to draw you into a story (sometimes with only a line or two) and then, in a few words, give you something you'll never forget. For instance, under the heading "Buechner": "I can't imagine myself with any other name ... If my name were dif-ferent, I would be different. When I tell you my name, I have given you a hold over me that you didn't have before. If you call it out, I stop, look and listen whether I want to or not. 'In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses that his name is Yahweh, and God hasn't had a peaceful moment since.'" – Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Beyond Words, Daily Readings in the ABC's of Faith 
"Whether reading "Beyond Words" makes for a happier, easier or more fulfilled life, I couldn't say. This much I know—it does, at least, for the duration of time you're reading it." – Jeff Simon 
"In The Sacred Journey, Buechner tells us that we must learn to hear in our lives the sound of the holy. 'It is the function of all great preaching,' he writes, 'and of all great art, to sharpen our hearing to precisely that end.' Son of Laughter will not only help one hearthat sound; it is that sound." – Brooke Horvath 
"These literary passes at contemporaneity are out of keeping with the biblical tone Mr. Buechner sustains, and with his faithful adherence to the original narrative. Some of the descriptive passages of the biblical countryside are lush and beautifully written, but they seem superfluous – Technicolor glosses. Writers can try to put flesh on the bones of this story, but finally it resists meddling, modernization, rewriting. The mesmerizing, cryptic original is a hard act to follow." – Lore Dickstein on The Son of Laughter 
"The word 'soul' – not always welcome these days in secular culture – is the right word for Buechner. Telling Secrets is unabashedly Christian; ultimately, it's a meditation on the connection between knowing and sharing secrets and discovering the reality of a loving and merciful God." – Frank Levering on Telling Secrets 
"There's no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth." Wishful Thinking
"The life that I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt." The Hungering Dark 
"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace." Now and Then 
"You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you've never seen before. A pair of somebody's old shoes can do it. ... You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next." Beyond Words 
"All theology, like all fiction, is at its heart autobiography." The Sacred Journey 
"It is impossible to conceive how different things would have turned out if that birth had not happened whenever, wherever, however it did ... for millions of people who have lived since, the birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it. It is a truth that, for twenty centuries, there have been untold numbers of men and women who, in untold numbers of ways, have been so grasped by the child who was born, so caught up in the message he taught and the life he lived, that they have found themselves profoundly changed by their relationship with him." Listening to Your Life 
"Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past ... to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you." Wishful Thinking 
"The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." Wishful Thinking 
"The world is full of dark shadows, to be sure both the world without and the world within ... But praise and trust him too for the knowledge that what's lost is nothing to what's found, and that all the dark there ever was, set next to light, would scarcely fill a cup." Commencement Address at Union Seminary, Richmond 
"Grace is something you can never get but only be given. The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you. I created the universe. I love you. There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.” Wishful Thinking 
"The only patriots worth their salt are the ones who love their country enough to see that in a nuclear age it is not going to survive unless the world survives. True patriots are no longer champions of Democracy, Communism, or anything like that but champions of the Human Race. It is not the Homeland that they feel called on to defend at any cost but the planet Earth as Home. If in the interests of making sure we don't blow ourselves off the map once and for all, we end up relinquishing a measure of national sovereignty to some international body, so much the worse for national sovereignty. There is only one Sovereignty that matters ultimately, and it is of another sort altogether." Whistling in the Dark 
"Our eyes are just our eyes and not all we have for seeing, maybe not even the best we have for seeing. Facts are all the eye can see, eyes cannot see truth. It's not with the eyes of the head that we see truths like that, but with the eyes of the heart. To see (Jesus) with the heart is to know, in the long run, that his life is the only life worth living." From "Faith by the Book: Author Preaches About Biblical Perspective" by Matt VandeBunte 
"I pick the children up at the bottom of the mountain where the orange bus lets them off in the wind. They run for the car like leaves blowing. Not for keeps, to be sure, but at least for the time being, the world has given them back again, and whatever the world chooses to do later on, it can never so much as lay a hand on the having-beenness of this time. The past is inviolate. We are none of us safe, but everything that has happened is safe. In all the vast and empty reaches of the universe it can never be otherwise than that when the orange bus stopped with its red lights blinking, these two children were on it. Their noses were running. One of them dropped a sweater. I drove them home." Listening to Your Life 
"[T]he Gospel writers are not really interested primarily in the facts of the birth but in the significance, the meaning for them of that birth just as the people who love us are not really interested primarily in the facts of our births but in what it meant to them when we were born and how for them the world was never the same again, how their whole lives were charged with new significance." The Hungering Dark 
"You can survive on your own; you can grow strong on your own; you can prevail on your own; but you cannot become human on your own." The Sacred Journey 
"Martin Luther said once, 'If I were God, I'd kick the world to pieces.' But Martin Luther wasn't God. God is God, and God has never kicked the world to pieces. He keeps re-entering the world. He keeps offering himself to the world by grace, keeps somehow blessing the world, making possible a kind of life which we all, in our deepest being, hunger for." From discussion with reporter Kim Lawton on Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly 
"Many an atheist is a believer without knowing it just as many a believer is an atheist without knowing it. You can sincerely believe there is no God and live as though there is. You can sincerely believe there is a God and live as though there isn't." Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC's of Faith 
"Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and free-dom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality—not as we expect it to be but as it is—is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love." The Magnificent Defeat 
"Maybe it's all utterly meaningless. Maybe it's all unutterably meaningful. If you want to know which, pay attention to what it means to be truly human in a world that half the time we're in love with and half the time scares the hell out of us. Any fiction that helps us pay attention to that is religious fiction. The unexpected sound of your name on somebody's lips. The good dream. The strange coincidence. The moment that brings tears to your eyes. The person who brings life to your life. Even the smallest events hold the greatest clues." Lecture to a Book of the Month Club 
"The child is born in the night – the mother's exhausted flesh, the father's face clenched like a fist – and nothing is ever the same again." The Hungering Dark 
"When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am in who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.
"For as long as your remember me, I am never entirely lost. When I'm feeling most ghost-like, it's your remembering me that helps remind me that I actually exist. When I'm feeling sad, it's my consolation. When I'm feeling happy, it's part of why I feel that way.
If you forget me, one of the ways I remember who I am will be gone. If you forget me, part of who I am will be gone.
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom," the good thief said from his cross (Luke 23:42). There are perhaps no more human words in all of Scripture, no prayer we can pray so well." Listening To Your Life 
"The love for equals is a human thing—of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing—the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing—to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy—the love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The torture’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world." The Magnificent Defeat 
"It is as impossible for man to demonstrate the existence of God as it would be for even Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle." 
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|Awards and Honors|
|Irene Glascock Prize for Poetry||1948|
|O. Henry Award for "The Tiger"||1955|
|Rosenthal Award for The Return of Ansel Gibbs||1959|
|Fiction Finalist, National Book Award for Lion Country||1972|
|Finalist, Pulitzer Prize for Godric||1981|
|American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters||1982|
|Christianity and Literature Belles Lettres Prize||1987|
|Critics' Choice Books Award for Fiction for Son of Laughter||1994|
|Virginia Theological Seminary||1982|
|The University of the South||1996|
|Wake Forest University||2000|