Writer Jonathon Rogers recently posted some processing thoughts on "Style and Grace," an essay by Wendell Berry in which he contrasts the writing styles of Hemingway and Norman McLean. I am tempted to summarize or paraphrase the post here, but instead will simply encourage you to follow the link and read the original.
I remember little about the one Hemingway novel I've read--The Sun Also Rises, a requirement for high school English class--other than I read it. Obviously neither the story nor the style made much of an impression on me. As I read Berry's observations on the difference between the two authors' styles, I find myself identifying with Hemingway's “craftsmanly fastidiousness” even while admitting that I aspire to McLean's manner of writing (and perhaps thinking) instead--"a style vulnerable to bewilderment, mystery, and tragedy--and a style, therefore, that is open to grace.”
There is little room for grace in a story--or a life--that is devoted to mastering the subject matter. Especially when you consider the fact that “mastery,” in our lived experience, is largely a matter of simply leaving out those things we don’t understand. Or to put it in other terms, “mastery” mostly means simplifying the complexities of our experience down to something we can master--but which may not look very much like the world we actually experience.These words give me pause. I struggle with ambiguity. I like the idea of mystery, but when it really comes down to it, what I'm after is mastery. However, I don't like this proposition that my striving after a neat and tidy life means that there's little room in my life for grace, even as I suspect there's real truth there. It's something to ruminate on.
[As long as I'm plugging Andrew and friends, allow me to send you to www.andrew-peterson.com to listen to his Christmas album, Behold the Lamb of God. It's good stuff. To listen online, go to music, then scroll down to the album and click to "open player." The player won't automatically start the next song, so you have to go back and click on each title to hear the song, but the music is certainly worth that little effort.]