…is what I’m doing. Today I’ve been digging through my notes for finals. What most concerns me is the concept of merit/grace in my Contemporary American fiction. These two threads try to quilt their way through the notes. The designs are so intricate, I don’t know if I understand any more or any less their commonality or their theme in this patterned state than when I first started.

Merit: As an abstract quality.
1. a. Theol. The quality (in actions or persons) of being entitled to reward from God. (OED)

Grace: Favour, favourable or benignant regard or its manifestation (now only on the part of a superior); favour or goodwill, in contradistinction to right or obligation, as the ground of a concession. Somewhat arch. of grace: as a matter of favour and not of right. in grace of: in favour of, for the benefit of. (OED)

Besides being graced enough to read Grace Paley, I’m thinking about Robert Olen Butler and the postcards. The Earl story and 9/11. Bobbi Ann Mason refilled my head with 1984, Springsteen style, the onslaught of pop culture, and the words of grace and merit still needled. Vietnam re-enters my head sewing the past onto the present and the whole picture looks a little less hilly(the house on the hill concept). Or not. DeLillo, of course, messed with the structure of body and time so that now I’m contemplating my own lack of merit in understanding the concepts of fiction and grace.

5 thoughts on “Conceptualizing

  1. I went to high school with a girl named Grace. But I don’t think you’re talking about her.

    Seems to me you’re talking more about grace, a virtue, that generous, goodwilled milk of mercy that nourishes the soul, that thing that comes when we surrender, perfectly to a moment of divinity, to a poem.

    I haven’t seen my friend, Grace, in a loooong time, but I know grace, too.


  2. B-), I have no friends named Grace. I have never known anyone with the name of Grace.

    I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say “a moment of divinity”. I’m thinking more along the lines of truth and reality, and the perception of reality. Writing a truth that is different from the expected. Writing an experience of reality in a way not revealed as the truth. Or not admitted to. Writing as a personal memory with priority over communal memory, of what is told to be true, but what is real for those in the experince. I’m thinking that writing may be a form of merit trying to achieve a state by writing a perception of reality. And, in this way, they can alter the landscape of a truth that has been feed to them. But, then again, I waffle, is this merit or is this grace? Or neither? Does that make sense?

  3. Sense? Or non-sense? Hmm…

    Just kidding. All I’m saying is that my perception of grace is that it’s that moment of divinity, of revelation, of truth. That moment in the poem, that writing of truth that is different from the expected, as you say, is in its clarity, a moment of grace whether or not it be communal or personal. (And, for me, the personal is the communal, unless the personal is a hermit.)

    As for merit, well, it’s just such an entirely different thing. Merit brings in the whole concept of judgement and grace has nothing to do with that, afaic.

    Gotta run, Common Weal AGM today.


  4. Anita, which comes from Ann, means Grace. I was chatting with a brilliant workmate the other day, who knows what every name comes from, and what it means. He is interested in the idea that some people believe that folks characters sometimes take on certain accepted meanings of their name. Anita means grace (but certainly not graceful!), and it is true, I have always felt very, very…blessed.

    Don’t know anyone named Merit, though.

    Bernadette, you are involved with Common Weal? That is very cool. When I was in La Ronge a group of us tried to get a community play going through Common Weal. I moved shortly after being told by one of the organizers that I looked like Julie Hagerty from Airplane. Not sure what happened with it.

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