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The Son of Laughter [Paperback]

By Frederick Buechner (Author)
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Item description for The Son of Laughter by Frederick Buechner...

Now available in paperback, Buechner's critically acclaimed novel based on the Jacob narratives--a classic family saga. "Buechner has taken these familiar pieces and woven them together into a seamless coat of many colors. His impeccable artistry has created a piece of extended poetry that never loses sight of the characters or the story. . . . An extraordinary novel".--Christian Century.

Publishers Description

Rich in family drama, passion, and human affinity, critically acclaimed author Frederick Buechner's contemporary retelling of this captivating and timeless biblical saga revitalizes the ancient story of Jacob, delighted our senses and modern sensibilities and gracing us with his exceptional eloquence and wit.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: HarperOne
Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 19, 1994
Publisher   HarperOne
ISBN  0062501178  
ISBN13  9780062501172  
UPC  099455012003  

Availability  3 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 18, 2017 09:21.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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More About Frederick Buechner

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Frederick Buechner was born in 1926. The author of more than thirty books, including "Godric," a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, he is one of the most often quoted Christian authors alive today.

Frederick Buechner currently resides in Rupert Putney, in the state of Vermont. Frederick Buechner was born in 1926.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Biblical
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Family Saga
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( B ) > Buechner, Frederick
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Fiction & Poetry > Fiction
6Books > Subjects > Romance > General
7Books > Subjects > Romance
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Fiction & Poetry > Fiction > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Fiction > General Christian > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Son of Laughter?

the son of laughter  Dec 11, 2007
I'd advise not to read this book. Certainly don't spend money on it. Buechner's sole strength seems to be imagination. But so is a 7 year-old's. At times his writing seems pedantic. Other times like he's trying too hard to be poetic (using "moors" for hills near their tents - in Palestine!). I feel he goes beyond proper liberty-taking for even historical fiction (why make the three visitors to Abraham and Sarah into birds, of all things? Why make Isaac out to be someone suffering from PTSD?) Maybe worst of all is a juvenile 'potty' infatuation: three potty allusions in the first three chapters - a bladder incontinence by A. at the near-sacrifice of Isaac, 'droppings' by one of the bird-angels at Sarah's laughter, and the considered beard-pissing at the Esau-stew-birthright scene. Give us a break. My copy goes in the trash.
Frederick Buechner's training and experience as an ordained Presbyterian minister, combined with his incredible literary skills make reading his works a pure joy. His retelling here of the story of Jacob, son of Isaac (whose name means Laughter), brings to life like no other author I've read the struggle toward God, the intra-family strife, and the sheer battle to stay alive in harsh times and an unforgiving landscape.

Jacob was not a perfect man -- but his yearning toward God was earnest and all-consuming, at the very core of his being. Buechner shines the light of his talent on Jacob's life, on the right and wrong decisions and actions, on the joy and sorrow, on the good times and the difficult -- and he does so with a loving hand, making no judgements, illuminating the whole and allowing the reader a multitude of aspects upon which to meditate and ponder, drawing parallels to our own lives and times as we do so.

The novel depicts a time during which people struggled within themselves -- and with their traditions -- to make the transition from worshipping many gods to worshipping one, and that transition was not an easy one. We can see the same struggle going on within our world today -- if we blur and expand the meaning of the word 'worship', we can see too many things that we value and allow to control our lives that should be peripheral to our journey, such as money, power, &c. Early in the book, Jacob makes reference to this transition (from p. 7), speaking of the 'old gods': 'When I say that I have forgotten their names, I mean that I cannot remember their names without trying. Maybe they also remember me. Who knows about gods? Maybe they have seen every step I have taken ever since. Maybe they are still waiting for me to capp once again on their queer and terrible names.'

The question of the Name of God is addressed in several places in this wonderful novel. He is referred to as 'The Fear', as 'The Sheild' -- but not given a name in the true sense of the word. He is never referred to as 'Elohim' or 'Jehovah'. On p. 161, during a physical struggle with God on the bank of the river Jabbok, God gives Jacob a new name: '"(Your name) is Jacob no longer...Now you are Israel. You have wrestled with God and with men. You have prevailed. That is the meaning of the name Israel" I was no longer Jacob. I was no longer myself. Israel was who I was.'

The question of the Name of God is burning within Jacob's soul. From the same passage: 'He was too close to me to see. I could only see the curve of his shoulders above me. I saw the first glimmer of dawn on his shoulders like a wound. I said, "What is your name?" I could only whisper it. (God replies:) "Why do you ask my name?" We were both whispering. He did not wait for my answer. He blessed me as I had asked him.'

On p. 184, Jacob experiences a bit of an epiphany on this subject: '(God) refused me his when I asked it, and a god named is a god summoned. The Fear comes when he comes. It is the Fear who summons.'

There is love, loss, spirituality, adventure, struggle, life and meaning within the pages of this book -- it has been written with talent and understanding and seeking, and it is a story that may be enjoyed and appreciated on many, many levels, as entertainment and as inspiration. I can wholeheartedly recommend ALL of Patrick Buechner's fiction as a rewarding literary experience.

An R-rated version of Genesis 12-20.  Dec 18, 2001
Novelizations of Biblical tales rarely work well. Some religious authors over glorify the characters, making them saints, reducing their credibility and immediacy. Non-religious authors usually try to reinterpret the Bible to fit a "modernized" word-view or social gospel, which changes the meaning of the story. Fortunately, Buechner avoids both of these pitfalls with this re-imagining of the lives of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. He ruthlessly depicts ancient cultures, full of graphic sex and violence, where God chooses a few unworthy messengers to carry out his work amid the backdrop of pagan gods and brutal animal sacrifice.

While the forefathers of the Jewish and Christian faiths are more wholesome and generally better behaved than their contemporaries, they often misinterpret the meaning of God's words, leading to bad decisions and dysfunction. Jacob ends up married to two squabbling sisters, siring children by his servants, and watching his older sons sell his favorite son into slavery. In fact, when you think about it, Jacob makes very few good decisions and leads a troubled life no one would envy. Yet, out of the turmoil, he becomes a "hero of the faith" and changes the course of history forever.

Buechner has a gift for direct, strong, image-laden prose that moves his story forward without too much analysis or "preaching". His voice is at times sorrowful, humorous, or downright cranky. His account embellishes on the Biblical versions without contradicting them. He relishes in showing us his characters' flaws and mistakes, all the while highlighting the work of "the Fear" in their lives. I urge you to read this book; you'll never look at Genesis the same way again.

My favorite biblical fiction  Dec 10, 2001
Jacob, to be truthful, had never really spoken to me before this novel. This hauntingly beautiful retelling seeks to explain why he acted the way he did without whitewashing him.

The well known stories of his relationships with his parents and twin brother Esau are here, as well as his two wives and sons and the famous ladder dream and wrestling match with the angel.

Jacob is no saint (for instance, the fact that he barely sees Bilhah and Zilpah as people when he thinks of them at all subtly brings the point home of what being a slaveowner really means), but he has spoken to Mr. Buechner through the ages about why he was justified in doing what he did to Esau and preferred Joseph to such an extent over his other sons (Joseph, incidentally, is the most loveable character in the book, finally breaking the cycle of pain as the embodiment of the reconciliation of Jacob's mind to Esau's heart, and Jacob's retelling of Joseph's story - presumably from what his son told him after their reunion - is beautiful and one of the highlights of the novel). Through his life there is only one constant - God - and their relationship reminds us how frightening the Lord must have seemed at times to the patriarchs and matriarchs long before the Good News.

Buechner's voice for Jacob is utterly compelling, and the novel is biblically sound with one major exception. Like many before him and doubtless many who will follow, he doesn't deal with the thorny Biblical fact that Dinah was raped and Jacob wasn't all that concerned about it (the issue is skirted by theorizing that Jacob knew Dinah loved Sheckem and what happened between them was consentual).

This will eventually become a classic. Please note that at times it is rather sexually explicit - definitely an R rating.

as disturbing as the Biblical version  Oct 11, 2000
Growing up a good Protestant boy, I was never much concerned with the Old Testament. For one thing, how important could any of it be if Christ hadn't even bothered to show up yet. Then, the stories are somehow just too senselessly brutal, the God they portray too inscrutable and all those lists of names and those "begats" are just brain deadening. Other than the Creation, the Garden of Eden and the story of Moses and the Commandments, the rest of it never struck much of a chord. So as I was reading Frederick Buechner's novelization of the life of Jacob, I actually had to look the story up in the Bible, because it just seems so bizarre. You know some guy dressing up as a sheep to steal his Father's blessing just isn't quite the same as the Sermon on the Mount. But there it all is in the book of Genesis.

Out of its spare phrases, and incidents like Esau literally trading his birthright for beans, Buechner constructs an accessible, engaging, and witty story of family feuds, tribal enmities, sibling rivalry and most of all of Man's uneasy relationship to God (or the Fear as the characters here refer to Him). I don't know that the book is suitable for all tastes--it's easy to imagine folks taking offense at some of the ribaldry--but then, when you read the Biblical version, it's just as disturbing.

I'm still not sure absolutely sure what message this series of incidents is supposed to convey to us, but Buechner's telling gives them an immediacy that makes the tale, if nothing else, enjoyable and memorable in a way that, truth be told, the original simply isn't..



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