Faith’n’Fiction Saturday Round Table: Godric by Frederick Buechner

Godric (novel)

Image via Wikipedia

Earlier this month I read the book Godric by Frederick Buechner for a Faith’n’Fiction Saturday Round Table taking place over at My Friend Amy (for a list of others that have taken place and that will take place the rest of this year) with seven other bloggers including Amy.

In alphabetical order, by name, the seven are:

We participated in an e-mail discussion starting this past Sunday and lasting through the later part of this week. Each of us are posting a part of the discussion sometime during the weekend (after the weekend, I will edit this post to include actual links to the posts themselves, so you don’t have to search for them).

Here’s the part I was asked to post:

Teresa: It took me a while to get into the novel. Godric’s voice is so strange, and it was especially hard for me to get used to the shifts from first-person to third-person. But once I settled in, I enjoyed it. Like Hannah said, self-perception versus others’ perception seems like a major theme. And l think those shifts in person ended up being a clever way of showing the difference in how Godric views himself and how he imagines his biographer, Reginald, sees him.

Carrie: the style of the language and the switching point of view kept Godric at a distance – I didn’t ever connect with him as a character. I felt like I was watching him from far away, instead of viewing him and his life at a close and intimate level, if that makes sense. Sure, I was privy to some intimate details of his life, but as a character, I never connected emotionally with him.

Bryan (that’s my real name, shhhh, don’t tell anyone): As a person who once wrote poetry and studied poetry in college, I think one of the first things that stood out to me in reading Godric were the poetic qualities of the writing. I especially noticed a plethora of passages with alliteration in them.

Dalai Lama with Marco Pannella

Image by dumplife (Mihai Romanciuc) via Flickr

Another thing that stood out to me was the mixture of the sacred and the profane, especially in that Godric didn’t glaze over his faults throughout his life and, in fact, laughed at them. Godric, as Pete mentioned, was fallible — and yet a saint. Personally, I am reminded of living with the Benedictine monks at Mt. Saviour Monastery in Pine City, N.Y. for six weeks about 16 years ago and how refreshing it was to see that they were human, but that God worked, and continues to work, through, and sometimes despite, their humanity.  I also am reminded of the Dalai Lama and how when you see interviews with him, often he is laughing.

Pete: I think a lot of people have a reaction similar to Carrie’s due to the language. It’s tough to penetrate for many readers. It has a rhythm and a flow to it that’s incredibly unique. It’s almost like reading Shakespeare or Milton in that you’ve got to attune yourself to the movement of the writing before you can actually settle into it and ride it as it gallops along.

Carrie: Pete – the comparison to Shakespeare is apt, as I found myself “reading it aloud” in my head in a sing-song way, almost like it was in iambic pentameter. (Former theater major here.)

Teresa: I had the same experience, Carrie, although I ended up liking the language more. I actually spent a good bit of time during one chapter trying to figure out if there was a clear meter there. It wasn’t consistent throughout, but there was a definite rhythm to the language, and at times it really did read like poetry.

Hannah: For me the language was fun — even thrilling at points. I love that lyrical, poetic quality in prose.

For the other parts of the discussion, please visit the blogs listed above later in the weekend.

Addendum

I also want to add this review of Godric by Pete Peterson from The Rabbit Room, in which part of what he says about the book:

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?

Um, yeah, Pete, you are, but that is all right. After reading it, I concur that it truly is a great book and like you, challenge “anyone to read this book and not be changed.”

I purchased this book from From My Shelf Books in Wellsboro, Pa.


5 responses to “Faith’n’Fiction Saturday Round Table: Godric by Frederick Buechner

  1. Pingback: The best books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched this year thus far | an unfinished person (in this unfinished universe)

  2. My husband is a HUGE Buechner fan and I have seen the novel Godric sitting on our bookshelf for the last 16 years. (As well as every other book he has written.) Never, ever picked it up. I find these days that I want to read plot-driven novels rather than novels that really explore the characters.

    A few years ago we saw him speak at a conference and I believe he referred to those plot-driven novels as an example of typing, rather than writing. I found that really interesting since my own attempts at fiction are more character-driven. Strange, isn’t it?

  3. Pingback: Faith ‘n’ Fiction Roundtable: Godric by Frederick Buechner « Word Lily

  4. Pingback: Looking back on my reading in the month of August (TSS) | an unfinished person (in this unfinished universe)

  5. It was a fun discussion – glad to be a part of it with you and the rest.