It is no accident that this book opens with an anecdote about Henry Ward Beecher, poorly prepared and crippled by scandal, about to deliver the Yale lectures on preaching named for his father. Formally, at least, the question that Buechner poses for himself is ""How is the [Christian] gospel to be preached? What is its content today?"" The book's answer could be paraphrased: don't reduce the gospel to something reasonable: see it as the tragedy of the absence of God, from King Lear's storm-sodden heath to ""my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?""; see it as comedy as in Sarai's ribald laughter on hearing she was pregnant at 91, and in other Chaplin-like instances of the gratuitous grace of God; see it as happy-ending fairy tale that speaks to something real within us. (The tragedy is the most convincing.) The author's method is to pour on words and stories as varied and accurate as he can muster; to make his point by saying it in different ways--and very effective this all is. Any reader will decide to see King Lear next time it's around, to read one of Mr. Buechner's very successful novels, to be more realistic about the dark, and to allow for the possibility of hope from unexpected quarters, but perhaps the book's main audience are readers still following the thread of the God-talk or religious language discussion--What does it say? How ""real"" is it?