“Art is an expression of joy and awe. It is not an attempt to share one’s virtues and accomplishments with the audience, but an act of selfless spirit.” ― David Mamet, True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor
I recently heard David Mamet (one of my favorite playwrights/screenwriters) in an interview say that stories have no purpose than to entertain; they have no purpose beyond entertainment. I find that difficult to accept fully. I’ve always been one to see the power of the parable. Heck, I actually learned something from Aesop’s Fables. And they were art. Maybe not the best art, but art nonetheless.
I don’t want to get into another debate about art—which is too broad to tackle here—but I don’t believe all art is simply about ‘joy and awe’ but it should be the major component, otherwise your art clangs like a broken cymbal. Especially a story. It can be about truth. Art reveals truth. Think of the ironic truth you hear in so much of popular music, even the most obtuse pop. We humans desire morality plays whether we realize it or not.
One of my motivations for writing is to inspire (hopefully). I’d like to evoke some emotion in my readers. Is that manipulation? (Perhaps a whole separate post?) While not apparent, my current novel is about love, love where most has grown cold. If I wrote simply to entertain, I’d stop writing. It’s much deeper than that for me. But Mamet’s right, if he’s not merely giving a fair warning: keep it interesting or get out of the business. Keep your ham-handed lessons and didactic attempts to yourself. Ultimately, your best motivations will always be selfless—and ring true.
I like Pablo Picasso’s quote: “We all know art is not truth. Art is a lie to make us realize the truth.”
I’d love to hear other opinions. Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing.