Courtney McDermott

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The Artist and the Spectator

“Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. Don’t you think? It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world’s greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.” – Bel Canton, Ann Patchett

I have been always certain that I was a writer; that everything I had to say and communicate and translate could be done so through art. But I value the role of the spectator just as much as the artist, and believe I should witness art, appreciate it – whether or not I make art myself.

As a graduate student, there is continual discourse about the purpose of writing, and the role of an audience. A number of my colleagues assert that they are making art to make art, and they don’t care if they ever sell anything or have a big readership. ¬†Writing is certainly not about money (and, at the moment, there isn’t much of that for me) and not about the New York Times Bestseller list or a movie contract for my book, but I do value a readership. It is important and necessary for me that someone is reading my work, that someone connects to my work and values what I have created. Without a reader, why do I write?

Yes, I write for myself, but I never assume that I write in isolation; that I am the only person who can appreciate or understand what I write. I have no wish to alienate anyone, and no delusion that I am that unique.

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An Excerpt from Anger

I broke the moon today. The light seeped out from the craters and cracks, and moved like fog. The light settled over the dips between mountaintops. And vanished.

The chunks of moon don’t glow anymore. Boring boulders now lay at my feet. I shall use them as stepping stones to cross the deadly green to the War Memorial: a circle of stone, engraved with names of bloodied, broken bodies decayed somewhere in France, Vietnam, Korea. There’s no moon over Paris now. No moon over Seoul.

And in place of it is a black eye socket in the sky.