Tag Archives: David Mamet

‘The Secret Knowledge,’ by David Mamet

The Secret Knowledge

David Mamet is, of course, one of America’s foremost dramatists. He was highly respected by critics until he came out as a conservative a few years back. Since then many have discovered that he has no talent at all.

Still, he perseveres, and he has written a book about Politics, The Secret Knowledge, to explain how his mind has changed on a number of issues and to provide a few glimpses into his personal pilgrimage. I don’t agree with all his opinions, but the book was fascinating to read.

The title is paradoxical. There is no secret knowledge, Mamet informs us. The basic truths of life are widely known by all people, even (or especially) the extremely unsophisticated. It is the intellectuals and the avant garde who reject obvious truth and embrace nonsense, to which they cling desperately, because their adherence marks them as among the Enlightened.

Any review is likely to devolve into commentary on Mamet’s actual beliefs, either approving or condemning them. So I’ll content myself with providing a few choice quotes – of which there are many. I think I may have highlighted about a third of the text.

Writers are asked, “how could you know so much about (fill in the profession)?” The answer, if the writing satisfies, is that one makes it up. And the job, my job, as a dramatist, was not to write accurately, but to write persuasively. If and when I do my job well, subsequent cowboys, as it were, will talk like me.

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Mamet on Film

David Mamet offers strong advice in this pared down clip from movie commentaries, such as this:

It’s hard to write a drama — because it’s hard to write a drama with a plot, because a plot means that you have to at the end of the drama resolve that problem which gave rise to the drama in such a way that it’s both surprising and inevitable as per Aristotle. The thing is, can you turn the film around in the last 10 seconds — one of the hardest things in the world to do.

Mamet Shuts Down His Play Over Gender Reassignment

The Milwaukee Alchemist Theatre received a cease-and-desist letter from playwright David Mamet after one performance of Mamet’s Oleanna, a play about a pompous male professor accused of sexual harassment by a female student. The Alchemist’s production cast a man in the role of the female student. Theatre owners claimed they “did not change the character of Carol but allowed the reality of gender and relationship fluidity to add to the impact of the story.”

Mamet disagreed. I don’t think he plays the “gender fluidity” game. (via Prufrock)

‘Three War Stories’ by David Mamet

I do not understand that discipline called “Ethnography,” which seems to me the validation of a prejudice by means of an excursion.

One can no more understand the operation of other cultures from observation than can one so understand the sexual act.

Observation, in the case of each, is missing the point, and Ethnography, or “Anthropology,” rests on a false assumption: that one may be free of prejudice.

Hugh Hewitt interviewed David Mamet, the legendary playwright who has recently “come out” as a conservative, a couple weeks ago. They were discussing this book, Three War Stories. They concentrated on the first story of this collection, The Redwing, which Mamet described as a novella dually inspired by George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman books and Patrick O’Brien’s seafaring novels. So naturally I had to buy it.

This is one of those profound, densely packed works that probably ought to be read multiple times, and I’ve only read it once. But I enjoyed it, particularly the iconoclastic elements, which are many. I’m just not sure I entirely grasp the themes.

The Redwing is a very complex story, ostensibly narrated by a former sailor, galley slave, and spy who later became the author of popular novels based on his own adventures. He does not tell his story directly, but as a series of commentaries on his books, with which he assumes the reader is already familiar. So we have to piece his real story together, in non-chronological fashion. Thus we’re dealing with a story on numerous levels – “factual” (though fictional) notes on a fictional work, based on supposedly factual events. This allows the author to play with the problems of the veteran who has a need to tell his story, but not all of it. He protects his country, first by risking his life, and then by concealing part of the truth from it.

Notes on Plains Warfare is an examination (which I thought extremely apt) of the dynamics of a war in which one side had a strong moral case, superior tactics, and greater resolve, but was crushed by an opponent simply more numerous, technologically superior, and more pragmatic. It is presented in the form of another memoir, by an American army survivor.

The last story, The Handle and the Hold, is a more matter-of-fact story, a little more linear than the other two, about two Jewish friends, a cop and a gangster, who join together to do a secret mission for Israel shortly after the end of World War II.

Definitely worth reading, but more work than the fiction I usually review. Cautions for language and mature subject matter.

David Mamet Will Self-Publish

Author David Mamet intends to self-publish his next work this year. He will be using a new service offered by his literary agency, ICM Partners, which will be using Argo Navis Author Services.

“Basically I am doing this because I am a curmudgeon,” he told the N.Y. Times, “and because publishing is like Hollywood — nobody ever does the marketing they promise.”

With this service, Mamet has more options. The Times reports that self-published books were about a quarter percent of the bestselling books on Amazon in 2012. With the ICM Partners deal, Mamet’s book may published in ebook and print-on-demand paperback for 30% of sales.

Mamet in Full Bloom

“The left flattens people, reduces people to financial interests. Dave’s an artist. He knew people are deeper than that.”

Andrew Ferguson has a powerful article on the political conversion of the strong playwright David Mamet. Of note is the fact that one of the books that blew his mind was Chamber’s Witness. “This book will change your life,” Jon Voight told him, and he was right.

Mamet is stirring the pot on Broadway and in Hollywood with a new book of essays, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture. I’ll bet it’s worthy reading.