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Great Writers, Great Readings: Alice McDermott


Alice McDermott, author of six novels and recipient of numerous awards, was the most recent author to grace the Great Writers, Great Readers program Wednesday morning. McDermott's brand of detail-oriented examinations of American life in the middle twentieth century has garnered her praise throughout the literary community. 

 Professor of English Julia Markus, who shares a personal connection with McDermott as they met through a mutual friend while McDermott was in graduate school, introduced her briefly, detailing her different accolades and praising her writing style. She also detailed McDermott's personal history, the author having grown up in Brooklyn and Elmont. 

For the reading, McDermott read an excerpt from her upcoming novel. She prefaced the reading by saying that she generally prides herself on being able to write novels that are not easy to pull excerpts from, but her editor read it and felt that it would make a good short story. The excerpt is also published in the New Yorker. 

The reading detailed the often painfully realistic courtship of a couple in the New York area. It contained the entire penchant for detail that McDermott is known for while keeping a steady momentum while providing strong characterization. 

In the question-and-answer session after the reading, McDermott discussed her writing process. "Whenever I start a new novel, I feel like a new writer," she said. She remarked that she had been working on her upcoming novel for six years.

She also spoke about her relationship with her agent and publisher who have been with her since the beginning of her literary career. 

Structure was also noted upon as being important to McDermott's writing. "Characters bring the details to me," she said concerning her process. 

"Rhythm is something that's not spoken about enough with young writers. The music of the language is what separates literary fiction from popular fiction," she said. 

With these remarks, McDermott concluded another memorable Great Writers, Great Readings. The next reading will be by poet Tom Sleigh on March 21. 

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