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Yellow Leaves: A Miscellany
Westminster John Knox Press, 2008
136 pp., $17.00
by John Wilson
The Yellow Leaves
In January of this year, King College in Bristol, Tennessee hosted the inauguration of the Buechner Institute, a faith-and-culture center directed by Dale Brown. Frederick Buechner himself was present, and when he addressed the audience, there was an expectant hush.
The guest of honor, without much preamble, told his listeners that for about ten years he had been unable to complete any substantial writing project. A very quiet auditorium became quieter still. Buechner went on to say that each day he goes out to his "Magic Kingdom," the separate place—set apart from the house—where for decades he has done his writing. There he is surrounded by his magnificent collection of first editions and assorted objects of significance to him. He writes, yet nothing comes to fruition.
Recently, he said, he had sorted through the accumulated fragments of the last few years and found some bits that seemed to stand up on their own, enough to make up a small volume, a miscellany, to be published under the title The Yellow Leaves. He quoted the relevant lines from Shakespeare's Sonnet 73:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.
He then proposed to read a couple of the pieces he had salvaged, and did so, to great applause. And now, six months later, as promised, the book has been published by Westminster John Knox Press. "I can still write sentences and paragraphs," Buechner says in the half-page introduction, "but for five or six years now [or ten, perhaps], I haven't been able to write books. Maybe after more than thirty of them the well has at last run dry. Maybe, age eighty, I no longer have the right kind of energy. Maybe the time has simply come to stop. Whatever the reason, at least for the moment the sweet birds no longer sing."
It's a very slim volume, mostly consisting of short reminiscences, but also including a scene from ...