Now and Then Essay - Critical Context

Frederick Buechner

Critical Context

The primary audience for Buechner’s work comprises two groups of readers: those for whom his Christian experience is both instructive and illuminating of their own faith and those who—with little regard for his religious conviction—admire his effortless prose and skillful depiction of the tensions and anxieties of modern life. Buechner has often said that his books are too religious for secular readers and too secular for religious readers. The truth is that throughout the winding path of his literary career, Buechner has had a consistently enthusiastic, though admittedly modest, readership among both kinds of readers.

Now and Then, though, clearly does represent a full circle in the canon of works he has created. Buechner once told a reviewer that his writing was a kind of ministry—a substitute pulpit for one ordained as a Presbyterian minister but without a congregation to shepherd. As noted already, he has argued in various works that storytelling reveals the form of human life, a pattern of events that upon investigation would divulge a divine presence and care. In his fiction, he has created credible living characters whose stories and themes exemplify this narrative vision. In The Sacred Journey and Now and Then, Buechner has exploited these narrative gifts in illuminating how his own life has unfolded. Buechner emerges in Now and Then as a compelling character himself; the bemused writer stands beside his...

(The entire section is 410 words.)