“Amazing Grace” is from Bradford Morrow’s story collection, The Uninnocent, (Pegasus Books, 2011). Morrow has published several collections of poems and six novels, including The Almanac Branch, which was a Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Morrow is a professor of literature at Bard College and founder/editor of literary journal, Conjunctions; his work can be found at www.bradfordmorrow.com.
Morrow said this about his story: I began work on “Amazing Grace” at my kitchen table in upstate New York, with the simple idea in mind that someone deprived of sight might be able to “see” better than others but at the same time would be easy prey to ill-intentioned people. I wanted my narrator to have been blessed with vision and then lose it, and through losing it begin to lose everything that was once dear to him. I like writing about people at the edge, in extremis, people in trouble often at no fault of their own. So this was the inchoate problem I set before myself.
Then, as it seems fate always has it whenever you’re very focused on a particular idea, a specific theme, an issue to solve, I read an article purely by chance about a man who was blinded by being electrocuted and several years later, for no explicable medical reason, got his sight back. It was deemed a miracle in the paper, and his doctors had no clear idea just how his blindness was reversed.
This very much complicated the possibilities of my original outline. I started to wonder, what if my abruptly blinded man became prey not just to others but to his own ego? What if his sight returned to him as suddenly as it left and he was forced to face ugly realities that he himself helped create. I’ve always been suspicious of self-help gurus, and so it made perfect sense for my blind man to be an inspirational speaker, kind of an Elmer Gantry of the life coach set. What became most interesting to me as I wrote the story was how things might end up. What would he do with his miracle? Miracles can be dangerous, just ask Saint Joan. Ask any martyr.