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Wishful Thinking [Paperback]

Frederick Buechner
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 26 1993
In Wishful Thinking, the first book in his much-loved lexical trilogy, Frederick Buechner puts the language of God, the universe, and the human spirit under his wry linguistic microscope. In his often ironic and always keen-sighted reflections on such terms as agnostic, envy, love, and sin, he invited us to look at theses everyday words in new and enlightening ways. Freshly revised and expanded for this edition, Wishful Thinking is a "beguiling" [Time] adventure in language for the restless believer, the doubter, and all who love words.

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A kind of "mongrel litter" by way of Pascal, Voltaire, and Ambrose Bierce, this theological run through the alphabet goes from Abraham and Agnostic straight through to YWHW and Zaccheus--the tax collector who shimmied up the tree on Palm Sunday to get a good look at Jesus. In between we get a heady brew of humor and wisdom. On Anger, for example, Buechner writes: "Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun.... In many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you." Or this, on wine: "Unfermented grape juice is a bland and pleasant drink ... [but] it is a ghastly symbol of the life blood of Jesus Christ, especially when served in individual antiseptic, thimble-sized glasses. Wine is booze, which means it is dangerous and drunk-making. It makes the timid brave and the reserved amorous. It loosens the tongue and breaks the ice especially when served in a loving cup. It kills germs. As symbols go, it is a rather splendid one."

And the book's title? Find it under "W": "Christianity is mainly wishful thinking.... Sometimes wishing is the wings the truth comes on. Sometimes the truth is what sets us wishing for it." --Doug Thorpe

Review

"Original, pungent and joyful." -- The Christian Century

"Thoughtful, spirited, entertaining...a dictionary for doubters and restless believers." -- Chicago Tribune

A beguiling book...Buechner handles difficult subjects (eternity, immortality, prayer) with a casual aplomb and easy analogy." -- Time

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Quotable Christian Nov. 29 2003
Format:Paperback
These warm but decidedly non-treacly theological mini-essays are just wonderful. I've never made any headway with Buechner's fiction, but this book reveals him as a superb aphorist. These essays were written to blow the dust off of shopworn religious words, to enable the reader to get at the great Christian themes afresh. They succeed--each essay is a pearl of homey wisdom and quiet wonder, soaked in tenderness and sensitivity and gentle humor. What's more amazing was that they were written at the close of the Sixties, during the Jesus Freak thing, yet very little residue of that era clings to them. They are darn near timeless.
This first of three volumes of theological essays is the best, but the other two, _Whistling in the Dark_, and _Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who's Who_, are also well worth dipping into. Readers who have enjoyed these collections of aphorisms better than Buechner's fiction and other long form writing would probably enjoy _Listening to Your Life : Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner_, which is a sampler of all his work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind-blowing and eye-opening July 25 2002
Format:Paperback
"Wishful Thinking" is Fredrick Buechner's lexicon of some "churchy" words that need some life breathed into them. Words like "faith", "grace", and even "religion" are examined, with entries ranging from a sentence to several pages.
Buechner's unorthodox style and unique point-of-view are what carry this book. Sometimes offensive, sometimes controvesial, the entries always seem to leave you wanting to ponder the meaning for a while. I have used quotes of this book constantly for leading devotions or Bible studies; they always seem to evoke a positive response. This book is one to read and keep forever.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  34 reviews
56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise and wonderful and other "w" words. Aug. 15 2000
By J. T. Nite - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is ostensibly a dictionary of terms related to religion and faith. In reality, it's a collection of Buechner's thoughts on these issues. Some of his "definitions" are a page long, some a paragraph, some just a sentence. They all manage to capture the essence of an idea and make you look at it in sometimes startling new ways. Take, for example, his definition for Lust: "Lust is the desire for salt from someone who is dying of thirst." Or Gluttony: "A glutton is someone who raids the icebox to try to cure spiritual malnutrition."
And that's just the short form. When Buechner lets his thoughts wander, the book goes from amusing to engaging and engrossing. It's like having an amusing conversation with a delightful person, who just happens to have a lot more insight into religion than you do.
I won't say this book changed my life, though I'm tempted. It did expand my perceptions, showed me alternate ways of looking at familiar things, and restored my sense of wonder in my (Christian) faith and in the world around me.
I heartily recommend it to any "Seeker" of any faith.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Quotable Christian Nov. 29 2003
By The Sanity Inspector - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
These warm but decidedly non-treacly theological mini-essays are just wonderful. I've never made any headway with Buechner's fiction, but this book reveals him as a superb aphorist. These essays were written to blow the dust off of shopworn religious words, to enable the reader to get at the great Christian themes afresh. They succeed--each essay is a pearl of homey wisdom and quiet wonder, soaked in tenderness and sensitivity and gentle humor. What's more amazing was that they were written at the close of the Sixties, during the Jesus Freak thing, yet very little residue of that era clings to them. They are darn near timeless.
This first of three volumes of theological essays is the best, but the other two, _Whistling in the Dark_, and _Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who's Who_, are also well worth dipping into. Readers who have enjoyed these collections of aphorisms better than Buechner's fiction and other long form writing would probably enjoy _Listening to Your Life : Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner_, which is a sampler of all his work.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great discussion starter June 11 2000
By Matthew T. Phillips - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Buechner's Wishful Thinking provides thought-provoking ideas for well-read scholars, but is certainly accessible to anyone who is not afraid to think critically about matters of faith. It is a great resource for teachers and group leaders who want to get people talking, and it provides a useful challenge to typical opinions when discussion has reached a stalemate.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Thought-Provoking Book I've Ever Read Dec 20 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There are few books I can say I've read twice and probably none I've read 3 times. I've read this book at least 10 times, not always straight through, but in its entirety. Buechner is thoughtful, poignant, and funny. If this book doesn't make you reflect on life and religion, you need help. I carry with me quotes like, "reading the bible as literature is like reading Moby Dick as a whaling manual" or "an agnostic is someone who's not quite sure about the existence of God; that is, some of us all of the time and all of us some of the time. Doubt is the ants in the pants of religion." Buy this book now!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a treasure! July 8 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is definitely one of my favorites. It isn't the kind you sit down and read cover to cover, although you could of course. I occasionally pick it up and read a definition or two and then need some time to digest it, because that is what I believe the author intends for you to do. His use of language is rich and I am left longing for more food for thought. Truly a treasure.
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