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Picks and Pans Review: Now & Then

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by Frederick Buechner

The author is a novelist, a Presbyterian minister and a writer of thoughtful nonfiction. This book, the second part of an autobiography (the first volume was called The Sacred Journey), will provide any reader with something that strikes right to the heart. Buechner tells how he decided to go to New York’s Union Theological Seminary and describes the great Paul Tillich and other teachers he had there. The author, who at 24 (in 1950) had had critical success with his first novel, A Long Day’s Dying, then went to Phillips Exeter Academy, where he started a religion department, counseled and preached for nine years until he gave up his congregation and moved with his wife and three daughters to Vermont. When his first child was born, Buechner discovered that “to love another, as you love a child, is to become vulnerable in a whole new way…. The child’s pain becomes your pain, and as the innocent bystander, maybe it is even a worse pain for you.” But there is the other side too: “The pain is so much a part of the love that the love would be vastly diminished, unrecognizable, without it.” These are unpreachy meditations on life and on Christianity at its most puzzling and profound. (Harper & Row, $9.95)