Respect for the privacy of my friend prohibits me from showing you the handwritten note, but this is the first paragraph I read
when I opened Secrets in the Dark to a random page to see whether or not Beuchner could write.
His description below of the people who inhabit the Bible reminded me of a similar description offered by the great illustrator, Barry Moser.
“But hear what? Hear what? The Bible is hundreds upon hundreds of voices all calling at once out of the past and clamoring for our attention like barkers at a fair, like air-raid sirens, like a whole barnyard of cock crows as the first long shafts of dawn fan out across the sky. Some of the voices are shouting, like Moses’s voice, so all Israel, all the world, can hear, and some are so soft and halting that you can hardly hear them at all, like Job with ashes on his head and his heart broken, like old Simeon whispering, ‘Lord, Let thy servant depart in peace’
The prophets shrill out in their frustration, their rage, their holy hope and madness; and the priests drone on and on about the dimensions and the furniture of the Temple; and the lawgivers spell out what to eat and what not to eat; and the historians list the kings, the battles, the tragic lessons of Israel’s history. And somewhere in the midst of them all one particular voice speaks out that is unlike any other voice because it speaks so directly to the deepest privacy and longing and weariness of each of us that there are times when the centuries are blown away like the mist and it is as if we stand with no shelter of time at all between ourselves and the one who speaks our secret name. Come, the voice says. Unto me. All ye. Every last one.
– Frederick Buechner
Secrets in the Dark, p. 98
The author of more than 30 books, Frederick Buechner’s first novel, A Long Day’s Dying, was originally written as his senior thesis in 1947. That book became a New York Times bestseller in 1949. His short story “The Tiger” was published in The New Yorker in 1953 and won an O. Henry Award. It’s about a Princeton undergraduate who dresses up as the mascot at a football game; later, at a party, a girl asks him to tell her about tigers. He never gets the chance.
Not many years later he became a minister.
In the Nov. 14, 2012, issue of Princeton Alumni Weekly, Maurice Timothy Reidy writes,
If Buechner is not as well known as, say, his late contemporary Gore Vidal, perhaps it is because he is, in his words, ‘too religious for secular readers’ and ‘too secular for religious ones.’
“It was the kiss of death, in a way,” Buechner says of his decision to be ordained. “When book reviewers saw that I was a minister, what they read was not the book I had written, but the book they thought a minister would write.”