Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Speak What We Feel: Not What We Ought to Say ” as Want to Read:
Speak What We Feel: Not What We Ought to Say
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Speak What We Feel: Not What We Ought to Say

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  276 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Four Unexpected Prophets Who Shine Light into the Darkness
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 31st 2004 by HarperOne (first published 2001)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Speak What We Feel, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Speak What We Feel

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  276 ratings  ·  33 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Speak What We Feel: Not What We Ought to Say
May 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite the title, this book is not about whining nor about inappropriate speech. It's about discovering meaning for oneself in literature. In particular, Buechner looks at specific works of four of his favorite authors (as well as mine) Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mark Twain, Shakespeare and C. K. Chesterton in search of deeper meaning about Life and Death, Loss and Faith. Besides being a spiritual writer and novelist, Buechner is also an ordained Presyterian minister.

I wish I had written up my thou
A dear friend gave this to me as a gift. I had never heard of this book or author previously.
I enjoyed this immensely. I learned so much about Chesterton, Shakespeare, Twain, and Hopkins. I feel more connected to them and their works & look forward to reading more of them.
Wonderful short book—really a collection of four interrelated essays—on works by authors that seem to have been "written in blood," coming from a place of deeply felt emotion, usually but not necessarily suffering. The works in question:

"The Terrible Sonnets" of Gerard Manley Hopkins, composed shortly before his death while toiling away as an unpopular teacher at a backwater school.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, whose life was bitterer and led him into deeper cynicism than on
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it

"The weight of this sad time we must obey, / Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say." - W. Shakespeare

It thrilled me that Frederick Buechner, a writer I have come to enjoy immensely, had written a commentary on the literary giants I admire: Gerald Manley Hopkins, Mark Twain, G. K. Chesterton, and William Shakespeare.

To Buechner, they were what he called "vein-opening" writers. "Vein-opening writers are putting not just themselves into their books, but themselves at their nakedest and most
Jesse Broussard
Nov 01, 2008 rated it liked it
This is a review of the lives of Shakespeare, Twain, Chesterton, and Hopkins (in reverse order). The review of Hopkins was magnificent, and the rest were good. One strong caution: Beuchner seems obsessed with homosexuality. He finds it everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Had the judges of the Salem Witch Trials found witchcraft the way he finds homosexuality, there wouldn't have been a Puritan left in New England.
Abby Ophus
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality, writing
I loved this book. Reading it reminded me of the quote from the Shadowlands "We read to know we are not alone." I gained deep spiritual encouragement from Buechner's analysis of Hopkins, Twain, Chesterton, and Shakespeare's great literary works and their spiritual lives. I will read this book again soon.
Jan 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable -- gave me a greater appreciation for The Man who was Thursday. I thought his examples with Mark Twain were the best, as Twain's own story fits best with Huckleberry Finn. Shakespeare, on the other hand, was a bit thin.
Brian Thatcher
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. The title is a line from King Lear. This isn’t a kind of self-help book giving us better communication techniques. Thank goodness. It’s literary analysis that speaks of four writers and their most honest, brutal, autobiographical words. Truly written with their own blood. We feel their brokenness and courage. Their faith, just holding on or completely disappearing. If anything, it’s about being honest with ourselves.
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Deeply renewing, spiritually honest thoughts on some great writers and their personal darkness. If only Buechner had woven his own story as intimately into theirs as he did with theirs to each others. I was often brought to my own dark places in simplicity and strength, as Buechner so masterfully pulls off in all his writing, but less often brought home to the guiding light that led his meditations. Might be worth a second read on my part.
J. Alfred
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Four writers--Hopkins, Twain, Chesterton, and the Bard Himself-- from various genres, time periods, levels of scholarly respect, and continents, are brought together in this book for the purpose of looking at the personal depression they underwent, and some of the ways they dealt with that in their writing. This collection is interesting in a lot of ways: first, if you are interested in any of the authors, it's a good little review and/or new lens for looking at his work. Second, if you're inter ...more
Aug 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Buechner is one of my favorite writers. Though his most influential work was done in the '80s (ie. the stuff I quote the most), he still writes extremely well crafted and thought provoking novels and essays. I'm not that far into this one, but it seems to meet his high standards.

This work begins with the great quote from Red Smith that writing is really very easy -- "all you have to do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein." Buechner tells the stories of four writers whose veins were ope
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian
I've read this book a couple times over, picking it up when I'm looking for something enjoyable to re-read. Chapter by chapter, Buechner takes four writers and their stories (Gerard Manley Hopkins' later sonnets, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, and William Shakespeare's King Lear) and weaves a discussion around their lives and works, showing how part of the lasting value of these stories comes from the way in which the authors spoke ou ...more
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christianity
I can't say enough about this little gem of a book. It's one of the last books Buechner has written. He briefly examines the lives of Hopkins, Twain, Chesterton, and Shakespeare and draws out some moving reflections on the life of faith. In particular, the chapters on Hopkins, Twain, and Shakespeare are worth reading and re-reading. The short afterword is vintage Buechner- honest, touching, graceful, and so well-written. I've been reading his books for over 10 years now. This last volume almost ...more
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What did G.M. Hopkins, Mark Twain, G.K. Chesterton and William Shakespeare all have in common besides being excellent writers? They all struggled with the dark side of human nature (of the demons within, so to speak) and that darkness is revealed in their writing in one way or another. What Frederick Buechner has done is to highlight those struggles and illuminate the darkness so that the reader can understand what was going on at the time they were writing. A masterful critique by one who under ...more
Huntley Cooney
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Literary criticism at its best! This book fits a pretty narrow spectrum, but for my purposes I think it's pretty much a perfect work of literary criticism. Warning: I read a bit of Buechner while in my 30's and realized I would need more life experience to appreciate him. If you don't connect with him yet, put him on your "to read" shelf and pick him up in a decade or two. You'll find a friend.
Debby Zigenis-Lowery
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
A wonderful visit with friends old and new, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mark Twain, G.K. Chesterton, and our always inspirational Will (Shakespeare, that is.) Buechner looks at how these authors navigated the dark hours of their souls and brought back to encourage and enlighten others wisdom gained passing through the fire of spiritual and emotional pain.
Apr 27, 2010 marked it as to-read
Excited to read this book. The title comes from one of the closing lines of King Lear, which of course whets my appetite further. And to top it all off, I was once assigned an excerpt my senior year of lit class by my teacher Allan Brooke. So there you have it.
Elora Ramirez
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-reads
I think I had a different expectation going into reading this that changed my opinion. There's a lot of literary analysis, which is perfectly fine, I just thought he would expand more on writing and speaking what we feel rather than explaining how other writers did it.
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book seem barely able to hold itself together. The connections Buechner makes between the authors are loose at best. I ended wishing I had rather read the books he was writing about rather than the book that was talking about them.
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: church
Buechner looks at four authors: Hopkins, Twain, Chesterson, and Shakespeare. He discusses some of what they wrote while they were in dark stages of life. I'd read things by these various authors and it was interesting to get more perspective on why they wrote what they wrote.
Jun 17, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great profiles of four writers - but that isn't the beauty of the book - it is Buechners wonderful sparse writing - full of meaning.
Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
An incredibly insightful book about four of history's most gifted and haunted authors. It was enlightening and educational!
Feb 09, 2010 added it
Shelves: theory-criticism
part 4 on king lear. have never before read literary analysis written with such love and with the weight of personal significance as if a play matters.
Abbi Dion
Aug 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
a phenomenal work of practical, grounded, historical criticism. highly recommended.
Oct 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
this book changed my life.
Anita McIntire
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Buechner challenges and blesses on every page.
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most intimate and revealing books I've ever read by Buechner.
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Very important book for directing my reading.
Bill Bangham
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Classic Buechner! It was fun reconnecting with him after a period of years. Well worth the read.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Virgil Wander
  • You Damn Kid  Fun at A.A. Meetings: The Comic Strip for Grownups About Being a Kid (You Damn Kid Series, 1)
  • The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
  • White Nights (Shetland Island, #2)
  • The Mercies
  • The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare
  • Night Watch: A Long-Lost Adventure in Which Sherlock Holmes Meets Father Brown
  • Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season
  • Red Bones (Shetland Island, #3)
  • All Along You Were Blooming: Thoughts for Boundless Living
  • Helium
  • The Lie
  • Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community
  • Confessions
  • Blue Lightning (Shetland Island, #4)
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
  • Broken Music
  • Perelandra (The Space Trilogy, #2)
See similar books…
Frederick Buechner is a highly influential writer and theologian who has won awards for his poetry, short stories, novels and theological writings. His work pioneered the genre of spiritual memoir, laying the groundwork for writers such as Anne Lamott, Rob Bell and Lauren Winner.

His first book, A Long Day's Dying, was published to acclaim just two years after he graduated from Princeton. He entere

Related Articles

In these strange days of quarantine and isolation, books can be a mode of transport. We may have to stay home and stay still, but through t...
59 likes · 39 comments