I have a dog-eared copy of Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Comedy, Tragedy and Fairy Tale that has more underlined sentences than left-unmarked sentences. Abraham and Sarah and Pilate become real and funny and tragic and heart-breaking because they are alive, and that's the way life is.
I read Wishful Thinking because it re-defines theological reality. Some of his lines are so unforgettable, and have lodged so deeply in my mind, that I'm afraid I might think I thought them up. ("I didn't say everything I said," Yogi Berra once pronounced. Or was it Frederick Buechner? Or was it me?)
I read his description of becoming a minister ("...or were you ill-advised"), and am comforted that someone else wrestles with the mystery and uncertainty of this unusual job. A car's lights only illumine fifteen feet or so, according to the old saying, but that fifteen feet will get you home.
I think of the honesty of his memoirs; the story of his father and the little noises and the threshold which may or may not be crossed; I think of his daughter and secrets and his heart; I think of his love for books and his eschewal of sentimentality, and I learn of my own heart, and hope for honesty and courage I do not yet know.
I listened to a tape of him reading favorite passages one day while I was driving; he read a paragraph from a novel by George MacDonald called Thomas Wingfold Curate, and I began to weep so hard from the power of the words I had to pull the car off the side of the road.
I have never met him, so I get to imagine him from my reading of his work: wise, thoughtful, reflective, with a calmness that can change your world like (to use one of his images) an overnight snowfall changes your backyard into a thing of beauty. I don't know of any writers who are actually like this, but I get to imagine Frederick Buechner this way.
I do know that he has had a disproportionate impact on countless souls, including mine. Probably yours already too. But if not, if by any chance you are reading these words and haven't yet read him, if you are wondering about God, or are a preacher, or are a preacher wondering about God, or would like to ponder what it means to be human in the real world, or would just like to enjoy fine craftsmanship, you've come to the right place.