Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Magnificent Defeat

When I was at Laity Lodge last fall for the writer’s retreat with the High Calling staff, I spent some time in the bookstore (my wife would not be surprised). It’s a small shop, but it's packed with some truly fine things to read. You can also use it something like a library, returning a book or books when you’re finished reading or when you leave.

I found wonderful things in that shop – poetry, fiction, memoirs, meditations and all other kinds of works involving faith. And I found two works by Frederick Buechner.

Buechner, now 84, published his first novel in 1950. His writings cross genres. The first work of his that I ever read was the novel Brendan, published in 1987. I have the paperback edition, published in 1988, so that would have been about the time I read it. It’s the story of the seafaring Irish monk who spent his life searching for the terrestrial paradise (roughly 484 to 577 A.D.) (yes, I know I wrote A.D.; I will resist “C.E.” to my grave, but that’s another blog post).

More than 20 years earlier, Buechner, a Presbyterian minister, published The Magnificent Defeat. This is one of the books I found in the Laity Lodge bookstore. This particular edition was the paperback published in 1985, some 24 years before I was holding it in my hand. I asked, but no one really knew how a 24-year-old paperback ended up in a small bookshop that sold mostly new books. (It sounds like the making of a short story.)

So I bought it, but I waited for a couple of months before I read it. It is a series of meditations, possibly sermons but they don’t really read like sermons, based on various passages of scripture.

Confession time: the meditations in this book have prompted at least one poem (“The gods are dying”) and the whole series of blog posts I did for Christmas on the innkeeper, the shepherd, the wise man and so on. And this work is so rich that it’s capable of inspiring a lot more. Not bad for a slim volume of 144 pages.

It had been a long time since I read any of Buechner’s writings, and The Magnificent Defeat reminded me both of what I cherished about his work and what I had been missing by not going back and reading all of it.

The title, by the way, is like several of his titles – harking back to the magical novels of Charles Williams, friend of C.S. Lewis and a fellow Inkling. The defeat of the title is God’s defeat of the human soul.

That idea alone is worth pondering a long time.


JC Dude said...

My Magnificent Defeat...I like the sound of that! Might have to go looking for that....thanks Bro' said...

Glynn, I remember that bookstore too. Although I avoided it because I had such a pile of unfinished books that I felt a need to discipline myself!

I love that title. It's no wonder you were attracted to it. Sounds like some excellent material in there, too.

David Rupert said...

I am huge Buechner fan. In fact, just pulled out my two thin bucks penned by him for another read.

A great mind with a wonderful pen.

M.L. Gallagher said...

haven't read Buechner. Have quoted him. Now, it's time for reading.

thanks Glynn for the spark to get me going!

H. Gillham said...

I'm shaking the cobwebs from my brain this morning, and then you throw down "God's defeat of the human soul" as being an "idea alone..worth pondering."

*shakes head to clear*

Then throw in Buechner's title with the defeat being "magnificent," and I might have to write that down to ponder.

Oh, what a mighty gift He gave us and look what I did with it.


BTW: Happy New Year

Laura said...

I hate to admit that I've not read any of his works. Just give me time. I'm working my way through all of C.S. Lewis' stuff that I haven't read. Like Bradley, I've promised myself not to buy anymore books until I finish this stack of wonderfuls I have. Of course, I must have Maureen's poetry book when it comes out. I'm still hopeful I might be able to finish most of my stack by it's release. But not that hopeful :).

Graceful said...

I have read a bit of Frederick B (I dare not spell his last name...I always get it wrong). I admit, I found him challenging. I gave up halfway through the only book of his I ever tried to read (and now I can't even recall the title). But the fact that this volume inspired those awesome nativity posts of yours, well that's compelling enough for me. I may have to find myself a copy (although I may try Amazon first before heading down to Texas!).

Thanks for the inspiration, Glynn, and for getting me back on the Fred B. bandwagon!

Graceful said...

Oky, I had to come back because I had a revelation this morning: it's not Frederick B. I find so incredibly's Deitrich Bonhoeffer (another spelling nightmare). I read something of his that my pastor recommended, and I had to abandon it halfway through -- every sentence I had to read like 4 times, and it just got to be too much.

Anyway, I LOVE Frederick B. -- I quote him a lot on the blog. And my journal is filled with quotes from him. I can't believe I mixed the two up -- what's wrong with me?!

Cheryl said...

Loved this post Glynn! It reminded me of the I profound moment of worship I experienced as I entered that bookstore. It was as if I was surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, past and present - amid a group of flesh and bones witnesses (you and so many others). Hard to explain but powerful.

Like Laura & Bradley, I resisted temptation to buy more. So many books, so little time.