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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Manuscript (04/29/10)

TITLE: Reality Wrapped in Delusion
By Linda Germain


My feisty grandmother, on my father’s side, could have been the pattern for any number of characters right out of early 20th Century southern novels that showcased the more quirky side of human nature. Not that my uneducated grandma ever had a desire to be compared to a streetcar bound for a psychological derailment. She was not an emotionally bankrupt Blanche or a victimized Rose. Her name was Grace…a trait she lacked in any noticeable amounts. She did not have patience for any point of view but her own. What she did have was tons of perseverance...and in her mind, a burning story to tell.

The giants of literature, like Faulkner, Williams, or Hemingway, could probe the depths of a character’s soul with boldness in order to expose weakness, or corruption, or evil. It’s no secret that many themes in those classics were triggered by a desperate need for the author’s personal catharsis. Those stark revelations tended to produce some twisted and murky interpretations of love and life with no counter-balance for which mankind yearns. Magnifying coarse imperfections and resulting neuroses, without a redemptive realignment, shortchanges the reader when it ignores eternal consequences.

There is no question the so-called masters of that genre wrote dazzling volumes with instinctive skill in the craft; but to my mind, the more popular the content the less it served a purpose beyond entertainment, or gave much hope.

The lack of moral code, or faith, or even good sense in that age of highly acclaimed books and plays, ignores the fact that there really are a few good men…and women… who do not succumb to every opportunity to hurt others, betray loved ones, or break God’s commandments. To this day, stories by those novelists and playwrights still generate literary esteem and are proffered as fine examples of writing excellence. That does not make their message valid; only annoyingly consistent.

If I had not been a baby in spiritual things those years ago, I might have known how to comfort my grandmother in some way that would have profited her. In retrospect, the time I have wasted reading the acclaimed geniuses of literature could have been better spent searching for truth and wisdom in Holy Scripture—the epitome of great writing, and certainly more rewarding. Too soon old, too late smart comes to mind.

Those prolific authors of her time composed and sold mountains of manuscripts that were often thinly disguised autobiographical confessions about depressions or obsessions. I’m not sure if Grace’s motivation to write was the same, or if she had a clue what that even meant. Nonetheless, she made me promise to get her pile-of-papers to the right people when she was finished.

She refused anyone’s preview of her efforts as she hurried to complete what she felt so compelled to create. Her life was coming to an end. She was ensconced safety in a nursing home, trapped in an invalid body—the result of a horrible car accident thirty years before. Her need to write became all the more poignant considering the amazing fact that she was blind—in the natural and metaphorically. That did not stop her.

She was like a mad scientist who had to get the magic formula down before it slipped away. Every once in a while she would pause to laugh at some new idea, and then scribble faster. When she finally relinquished the pen, and her life, I put her manuscript away, too busy to honor her request until it dawned on me that since she worked on it so feverishly perhaps she really had something of great import to share. Did I have the right to deprive the world of her legacy?

A stunning irony--even O’Henry could appreciate--had yet to knock me winding.

I was not prepared for the unexpected reality lesson as I took a deep breath and opened the large envelope. I picked up page one, excited to learn amazing things from my deceased grandmother. I strained to make out the words. Had she written in Chinese or Russian? It made no sense. Her last concentrated effort to have her say was unreadable. The squiggly mess could have been written by a young child with a crayon. It was gibberish.

Like those famous, clever writers who are applauded for their great works, it turns out she was just as full of her own sound and fury as they, but in the end, like them…her manuscript really signified nothing.



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Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 05/06/10
You must have felt deflated when your eyes saw your grandmother's "writing".
This was filled with great descriptive phrases, nice flow and I found myself curious about the contents of her manuscript--so for me the ending was a surprise.
angelos2 wark05/07/10
A sad ending. I thought parts were a little too wordy. just the opinion of a beginner. Very well written.