Reviewed by William Wade
Conversations with American Writers: The Doubt, the Faith, and the In-Between by Dale Brown is a collection of ten interviews between Brown and a number of contemporary American writers. This is the second such set which Brown has put together, and they are remarkably charming pieces, indicative of his knowledge of American literature and his ability to draw from these writer significant conversations about their work.
Brown gently guides these interviews through a number of different topics, generally following the lead of his authors. He explores the reasons why they write, the relationships that develop between them and their publishers as well as those who buy their books. A significant part of the conversations deal with the religious positions held by the writers and how those views have been shaped from childhood. Brown lets his authors speak freely as to their convictions, and he never expresses any judgment about what they have to say. And although all of them can be thought of as individuals with serious Christian viewpoints, the way in which they live and express their faiths may vary sharply.
These interviews should be read when there is ample time for relaxation and consideration of what it being said. It might be best if any interview could be read when the author’s books are readily available for comparison and study. Fortunately, the Bristol Public Library has books by all these individuals.
Authors included in this book are the following: Eleanor Taylor Bland, David James Duncan, Terence Faherty, Ernest Gaines, Philip Gulley, Ron Hansen, Silas House, Jan Karon, Sherri Reynolds, and Lee Smith.
It needs to be noted that Dale Brown served for many years as a Professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and director of the Festival of Faith and Writing. During this time he also came to be recognized as the leading American authority on the theologian Frederick Buechner. Brown left Calvin and joined the faculty at King University where he also instituted a program to bring Christian writers and speakers to King.