Starting with the novels “The Return of Ansel Gibbs” (1958), which questioned the human values of a former statesman recalled to Washington for a cabinet post, and “The Final Beast” (1965), which linked a young widowed minister to a woman in a small-town scandal, Mr. Buechner’s writing took on new theological dimensions, finding divinity in everyday life.
In a series of autobiographies — “The Sacred Journey” (1982), “Now and Then” (1983), “Telling Secrets” (1991) and “The Eyes of the Heart” (1999) — Mr. Buechner examined his relationship with his deceased parents and his insights gained from therapy sessions. He explained his intention in an introduction to the first volume:
“More as a novelist than as a theologian, more concretely than abstractly, I determined to try to describe my own life as evocatively and candidly as I could in the hope that such glimmers of theological truth as I believed I had glimpsed in it would shine through my description more or less on their own.”
Critics sometimes accused Mr. Buechner of moralizing. But more typical was Cecelia Holland, in The Washington Post, on his novel “Brendan” (1987), about an Irish saint whose sixth-century voyages were likened to those of Sinbad. “In our own time,” she wrote, “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.”
The author of this beautiful obit of a great writer joined the Times over 60 years ago: “Robert D. McFadden is a senior writer on the Obituaries desk. He joined The Times in May 1961” https://t.co/aSpKSwQWuT
— David Brooks (@nytdavidbrooks) August 16, 2022