Tag Archives: Hutchmoot

Aside

When I saw that “The Camel Song” was the song of the day at The Rabbit Room today, I immediately had visions of playing the silly song on repeat, all day long. My husband had other ideas. After playing it … Continue reading

Faith ‘n’ Fiction Roundtable: Godric by Frederick Buechner

For Faith’n’Fiction Saturday this week, I participated in a round table discussion with several other bloggers about: Godric: A Novel by Frederick Buechner (Harper Collins, 1980), 192 pages

Brief book summary and overview

Godric tells the story of Godric of Finchale, with some sections coming in chronological order, starting from his childhood, and others coming at the end of his life, as Reginald is recording Godric’s story for posterity.

I had several reasons to read this book:
• This Roundtable discussion,
• It’s on the Image Journal list of which I’ve made a perpetual challenge, and
• It was suggested reading for Hutchmoot.
I didn’t finish before Hutchmoot started, but I was reading it while I was there.

A couple quotes I loved:

“Go now. Do good. For there’s no good a man does in this world, however small, but bears sweet fruit though he may never taste of it himself.”

~pages 38-39, Cuthbert speaking

And:

“The voice of silence calls, ‘Be still and hear,’ poor dunce,” she said. “The empty well within your heart calls too. It says, ‘Be full.'”

~page 70, Gillian speaking to Godric

I really enjoyed the book, the writing as well as the content. While not a book filled with lovely things, Godric is beautifully written and jammed full of content. [It’s (like so many I’ve read this year, it seems) very much written from a man’s perspective. In this case that’s more shocking at points than off-putting.]


And now a small part of the discussion, which is spread out over the blogs of all the participants, divided topically.

Familiarity with Buechner and the real Godric

Amy: Have you previously read anything by Frederick Buechner or did you have any familiarity with Godric of Finchale?

Hannah: This is my first Buechner and my first encounter with Godric of Finchale. It won’t be my last, though! I felt at a disadvantage because I didn’t know the history well.

Teresa: Godric was the second Buechner novel that I’ve read. I read Brenden several years ago, but I don’t remember much about it. I’ve also read some of Buechner’s essays, but again, it was a long time ago. This was my first exposure to Godric of Finchale’s story as well.

Heather: I haven’t read any Buechner and didn’t know anything about Godric prior to this reading.

Pete: I’ve read quite a few of Buechner’s books but Godric was my first and remains my favorite.

Carrie: Godric was my first experience with Frederick Buechner, although I’ve wanted to read something by him ever since I saw him listed in an “authors of faith” list — I don’t remember where. I’d never heard of Godric of Finchale before reading this.

Bryan: In answer to the first part of the question, I had read nonfiction works by Buechner in college which I enjoyed immensely and so was very interested in reading some of his fiction work. As for the second part, I had no familiarity with Godric of Finchale until I read Buechner’s historical note at the end.

Thomas: No. I guess that was a simple question to answer. I do plan on rereading Godric and I plan on adding another Buechner book to my reading list in the future.

Amy: I’d previously read a few of Buechner’s nonfiction books … essays and memoirs, both of which I loved. Godric was a different sort of experience.


For more of the conversation, visit

My Friend Amy :: Headquarters
Unfinished Person :: The language of the book
My Random Thoughts :: Overall impression
The Fiddler’s Gun :: Godric’s relationship with his sister
Shelf Love :: Perception
Book Addiction :: Merits of rereading
Books and Movies :: Prayer passage


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Walt Wangerin teaches: Hutchmoot keynote

Cameraphone: Walt Wangerin speaks at Hutchmoot.

One of the highlights of Hutchmoot for me was author Walt Wangerin‘s (pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable, and rhyming with wanderin’) talk.

Although most of the information was not new (as he kept saying), Wangerin touched on several topics I’d been thinking about recently (including this one). Afterward, he signed a few books, including the two I’d brought. 😀

The talk

Wangerin defined art as composed experience. It puts details into a kind of order, that is then experienced by someone else. Art seeks an audience (a reader, in the case of writing). One creates with the ghost of the audience in the room.

This experience is intense. It’s an experience with a beginning, middle and end. It creates its own time and space (other pieces are squished together to give the new work room); it “becomes the cosmos for a time,” Wangerin said.

The artist, the storyteller (the minstrel) makes sense (decisions) of the chaos — but that order doesn’t have to be mathematical. (“A piler into piles and a heaper into heaps” is the Sanskrit definition of a poet, Wangerin said.)

Wangerin listed 5 covenants, or relationships, he’s made in respect to creating:

  1. A covenant with perceived reality.
    This is the standing apart, separation (shyness?) — the third eye — observation and creating requires.
  2. A covenant with my craft, with peers in that craft.
    1. Know what came before.
    2. Know the craft, the righteousness of the language, if only to play against it.
    3. Establish good relationships with artists of today.
  3. A covenant with the community within which I’m writing.
    This is the boundaries we choose not to cross to protect our families, our friends. Don’t misuse them.
  4. I must not lie.
    (Fiction is fine.)

    There are 2 languages of creation:

    1. God spoke into being, out of nothing
    2. The one we have, which is naming (Genesis 2).
    3. Names are not merely handles but:

      1. The thing named is brought into place so it can be known.
      2. A name establishes an item/person’s relation with other name things.
      3. The naming action beings to declare the thing’s purpose.

      This naming is powerful, but also dangerous.
      Art must be a kind of piety. (I wish I remembered more of what he was saying here.)

  5. A covenant with the axioms inside me, by which I make sense of life and the world.
    What I write (and/or create) must be consistent with my worldview.

The signing

It was my first author signing since I’ve been a book blogger, and as signings go it was pretty low-key (I think).

I had him sign two of my books, both The Book of the Dun Cow and Saint Julian.

In all, Wangerin’s visit was one of the biggest highlights of Hutchmoot.


About the author
Walter Wangerin Jr. is the author of 30-plus books, including The Book of the Dun Cow (his first novel) and Saint Julian (one of his most recent). He teaches literature and creative writing, and is writer-in-residence, at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.

Eulogy

When I heard the news Friday that Grandpa had died, I just had to write. I couldn’t not. We were in the car, en route to Nashville for Hutchmoot, and I cried and wrote. What I wrote, I shared at the funeral yesterday and am posting here also.


One might look at Grandpa’s life and declare it narrow. He lived on the same (small, by today’s standards) piece of land nearly all his life. Many of the things we may consider normal aspects of daily life he never experienced. But I will not define his life by what he lacked.

His love was huge. He kept up with the world’s happenings and could talk easily with anyone. He placed others before himself. Life didn’t end up exactly how he’d planned and dreamed. But still he saw the silver lining.

He served his country, but like most of his generation he didn’t talk much about the gruesome things he doubtless saw. He did like to share about the places he went, though. He saw the world in World War II.

Whether based in actual events or fictional, long or short, tall tales or more realistic. Serious or just for fun. He loved a good yarn.

He told stories. He read to us. He read books himself. He watched old movies and the news.

On Friday when I heard the news about Grandpa I was reminded about a beloved book character. I don’t know if you all know Mitford’s Uncle Billy from the books by Jan Karon, but he’s dear to me. I’ll just tell you a little about him:

Uncle Billy is always ready with a joke. He treats his telling of jokes like a job of sorts, placing all kinds of pressure on himself to find and deliver the best of jokes. Uncle Billy isn’t actually anyone’s uncle, but in a way the whole community leans on him. Besides his jokes, Billy is known for loving his wife fiercely. It’s perhaps what he’s not known for that’s the most extraordinary, though. He drew. Exquisite drawings that when they came to light lessened the financial burden tremendously. He caned chairs, he carved. And he did all this quietly, without presumption. With no expectation.

Uncle Billy reminds me of Grandpa. Life may not be easy, but he brings the smiles.

I heard a new story just a couple weeks ago, when Grandpa’s brother was visiting:

When he was young, and they’d had a dry year and thus didn’t have enough hay to feed the cows, they drove ’em, in trucks, to the Sandhills (by Purdum, he said) so they could graze. On the way home, they stopped at every place and had a bullfight. “Our bull was a good fighter,” he said. “It didn’t ever take long to win.”

He enjoyed stories both as a recipient and as a purveyor. More than either of those, though, I remember how he created stories — memories — for me. For us.

When I was little Grandpa took Luke and I out to a hill and handed us a gun. He’d previously set up cans across the way for us to aim at. When I hit a can with my first shot, he called me Annie Oakley.

He took us sledding. He made us toys. He played the squeezebox and sang. He let us into his story, showing us around the farm.

Grandpa loved the land. He delighted in his family. His life was large.

Reading while traveling

I’m excited to attend Hutchmoot this coming weekend — and while I’m at it to meet My Friend Amy!

One positive aspect of pre-trip preparations (I really don’t like packing) is choosing what books to take. Here’s what I’m currently thinking:

It’s not a long trip but not just a weekend, either. Sometimes I read less on the road than I would at home, but sometimes I get some quality book time in. I do have a knitting project on the needles for the trip, as well. It’s a new design I’m working on from handspun, as part of the 4! Ounce! Challenge!

Even if I don’t end up reading a ton, though, I need to take more books than this to feel comfortable (Those two for me are both quite short, and I’m already partway through one of them!), but I haven’t figured out yet what else to take. Guess I’d better go stare at the bookcase for a bit …

Saint Julian by Walter Wangerin Jr.

Saint Julian: A Novel by Walter Wangerin Jr. (HarperCollins, 2003), 240 pages [Note: At least right now, it’s available for $1.99 at Barnes & Noble.]

Summary
Saint Julian is the story of a fictional saint from what I take is the Middle Ages, although it’s never specified. It tells Julian’s life story, based on an old (more modern-day) priest’s research. Julian’s story starts off easy enough — he’s born to a good family, with a pretty high station in life. He learns all things eagerly, but he’s most interested in, and most naturally skilled in, hunting. Life gets more complicated, though, as he grows up.

Thoughts
First of all, I know a book is going to be good when it uses the word incunabula. In this case, it’s on page xxi, in the prologue: “Legends, pious chronicles, the handwritten incunabula related to Saints and to this Saint I read carefully, accumulating notes.”

The story (see hunting, above) is quite bloody, at least in places. This I didn’t love, but without it, this book would not be this book.

The writing is beautiful. Simple, but still thrilling.

The prologue and epilogue are stepped back from Julian’s story; here we see the priest who’s been drawn to Julian, who feels Julian’s story is his story. And in a way, Julian’s story is our story, too. It’s a story of the struggle, the meaning of the ordinary. It reveals hope, the fruit of one’s everyday walk.

I think I liked this book a bit better than Wangerin’s first novel, The Book of the Dun Cow, but I still remember that one fondly. They’re quite different.

Another quote, just because I loved it:

“And then it was her husband himself who moved softly through her chamber, attending to tasks otherwise accomplished by her servants: he combed her hair; he drew the curtains around her bed; he drove out the cat and the dog; he placed first a basin of water on the table by the wall, then a urinal bedside on the floor — and finally he took his leave mannerly, that his lady might take her rest merrily: she and their babe, whose name, indeed, was Julian.”

~page 25, emphasis mine

About the author
Walt Wangerin Jr. has written many books, including The Book of Sorrows and The Book of the Dun Cow.

Other reviews

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I purchased this book.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (Macmillan, 1945), 160 pages

Summary
The narrator boards a bus in a grey, nondescript neighborhood and arrives at the edge of Heaven. What follows is a take on what the afterlife could look like.

Thoughts
I had never been terribly interested in reading this book, because I thought it was nonfiction. Then I saw it referenced by a friend on Facebook a few months ago, which piqued my interest. And when I saw it listed as suggested reading for Hutchmoot, it was decided.

I fear some of the book’s allusions went over my head; Lewis referenced Milton frequently, and I’ve not read Milton. I’d probably also be better off if I’d read The Divine Comedy recently. And when he meets George MacDonald, some of his work is obliquely but specifically referenced, and I’m not familiar with whatever he referred to there, either. I’ve got three MacDonald books to read this month, though …

Anyway.

From the preface, I knew I was going to love this book. It didn’t *quite* live up to my expectations set in that moment, but it was still great.

After reading it, I can now understand why it sometimes gets shelved with the theology books rather than in fiction. The fictional story is more than a frame for Lewis’s What Is Heaven discussion, particularly in that it doesn’t break down and is never abandoned, but in some ways it’s not much more than a frame for that theological meat.

“They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”

~The Great Divorce, page 67, George MacDonald speaking

This is a pretty fun book. It took much longer to read than its slight 160-page frame would suggest — it’s dense, not spun sugar — but I can’t hold that against it. It’s a book that made me think. I don’t think The Great Divorce will knock The Screwtape Letters and The Space Trilogy out of the top spots as my most-loved works by Lewis, but I’m glad I read it.

If you’re interested in Heaven or a fan of Lewis, this is a must-read. Outside of those quite narrow parameters, I’m sure, are many others who would enjoy this book.

Surely I don’t need to tell you about C.S. Lewis, right?

Other reviews
Framed and Booked
Tammy’s Book Nook

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I checked this book out from the library. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.