Books: A Parson of No Importance

THE FINAL BEAST by Frederick Buechner. 276 pages. Atheneum. $4.50.

How to be popular, though Christian. The real-life problem has apparently confronted Frederick Buechner, 38, a talented proseur (A Long Day's Dying, The Return of Ansel Gibbs) who was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1958 and now serves as chaplain at Phillips Exeter Academy. In this precious pseudoreligious novel, the author sounds like an eager young padre at a prep-school bull session, the type who yanks off his collar, chug-a-lugs a yard of beer, belches a couple of four-letter words, and in general suggests that in the beginning was the dirty word.

The...

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