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1. Theatre
2. Race
3. True and False: Heresy and Common
4. Three Uses of the Knife: On the
5. On Directing Film
6. Oleanna
7. Life in the Theatre
8. Writing in Restaurants
9. The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism,
10. Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature,
11. Romance
12. Woods, Lakeboat, Edmond
13. De-Mythologising Popular American
14. Glengarry Glen Ross: A Play
15. A Whore's Profession: Notes and
16. Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly
17. The Old Religion
18. Henrietta
19. Keep Your Pantheon
20. The Chinaman: Poems

1. Theatre
by David Mamet
Hardcover: 176 Pages (2010-04-13)
list price: US$22.00 -- used & new: US$11.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0865479283
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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If theatre were a religion, explains David Mamet in his opening chapter, “many of the observations and suggestions in this book might be heretical.” As always, Mamet delivers on his promise: in Theatre, the acclaimed author of Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed the Plow calls for nothing less than the death of the director and the end of acting theory. For Mamet, either actors are good or they are non-actors, and good actors generally work best without the interference of a director, however well-intentioned. Issue plays, political correctness, method actors, impossible directions, Stanislavksy, and elitists all fall under Mamet’s critical gaze. To students, teachers, and directors who crave a blast of fresh air in a world that can be insular and fearful of change, Theatre throws down a gauntlet that challenges everyone to do better, including Mamet himself.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars David Mamet's Theatre
Although not all would agree with Mamet's premises, I find them right on and entertaining. His knowledge of theater and what works is fantastic. I would recommend this work to anyone interested in Theatre at any level.

This book reads like a drunken rant.So to loosely paraphrase Abe Lincoln, find out what brand of whiskey Mamet is drinking and give me a double.

Twenty-seven of playwright David Mamet's theatrical essays have been "organized", in no particular order, into a little book called THEATRE.The general subject matter is indeed the theatre, but with the topic drift between one essay and another no central premise can be discovered.

Lajos Egri fans know that the lack of a premise is the missing heart of bad playwriting.But nobody is suggesting that this book be adapted for the stage, so the reader can simply enjoy it for the wisdom it brings.And it is a very wise book. Be advised, with a book made up of rambling essays, the resulting review predictably also rambles, so in no particular order, my observations on Mamet's wisdom.

MAMET ON ACTING:Hit the final consonant, so you don't swallow the last two words of your speech.This alone will improve performances everywhere.

MAMET ON ACTING TRAINING:That famous acting schools are famous not because of the quality of their training but because they attracted super-talented people is undoubtedly true, but the training that perfects your voice and body could have gotten better attention.Mamet's comments about Sanford Meisner's technique are odd, considering how much of Meisner's approach is reflected in Mamet's writing.And while Meisner's repeating game may have never been finished by anybody, it's not without value, and I've watched children spontaneously engage in it.

MAMET ON THE "CULT" OF THE THEATRE:That the "Method" is nothing but psychobabble is a heresy that should have been stated a long time ago.The theatre is not a religion, it's a job, and Mamet's clear and workmanlike approach to that job is infinitely better than the mystical mumblings of the small cabal of leftish gurus who have dominated American theatre since the 1930's.

MAMET ON DIRECTORS:A lot of his dismissive comments about directors are applicable only to plays, and would be a disaster when applied to operettas or musicals.The magnificent contributions that people like Dorothy Danner, Joanne Akalaitis and Mike Nichols make with their direction can't be dismissed, and it would have been nice if Mamet had explored the differences between talented and untalented directors by example instead of pronunciamento.

MAMET ON THE INSTITUTIONAL THEATER:Anybody who has ever worked for a Children's Theatre or any LORT theatre will grimly agree with Mamet's observation that if the task of an artist is to create, the task of an institution is to continue.At some point, an institutional theatre becomes all about the administration, and the artists get shoved to the periphery.One can easily imagine a theatre made up of nothing but administrators that puts on various audience and community programs but never stages a single show, and indeed I know of two theatres that do just that.As Mamet points out, such programs are actually useless; if you're putting on exciting plays with exciting actors, you don't need an Audience Development Director, and if you attract an audience you don't need Audience Feedback meetings, the crowd was all the feedback you needed.Those who doubt this can take a look at the current (2010) Guthrie Theatre webpage.There are voluminous entries for the administrative staff and programs, and nary a word about the acting company.This at a theatre that was founded by Tyrone Guthrie to showcase talented actors in reparatory.

This is just a preview of some really valuable observations, and an admirable Mamet property is that he is the opposite of a theatre practitioner, eschewing theoretical discourse to explain what he does.Like the City of Brawny Shoulders he works in, Mamet's viewpoint is mercantilist.His standard of theatrical success - watch the box office - cannot be argued with.If you have no audience, who did you put the show on for?Are you mounting a play or engaging in an extended audition for the real play you want to get into?

For those who are comfortable where they are, this book probably won't be of much use.For those trapped in a particular "culture" of theatre, probably adopted from high school or college or wherever the first exposure to the stage was, this nifty little book provides a way out.

4-0 out of 5 stars Mamet: The Dramatic Master
With his trademark concision, David Mamet once again challenges professional theatre practitioners to simplify their (otherwise deleterious) methods of organization, production and education. And while he is correct on almost every point he makes, please note that Mr. Mamet hasn't always practiced what he has so rigorously preached.

In "Theatre," Mamet rails against mixing politics and entertainment. One of his best works, however, "Oleanna," is (among other things) a demonstration in censorship and an indictment of political correctness.

Regarding his zeal for the Aristotelian Unities, one might enquire as to which dramatic principles he implemented in bringing "The Old Neighborhood" (a plotless character study) to the stage. "Cut away all embellishment and make the audience wonder what happens next," Mamet demands of us time and again. He posits that a theatrical experience "is essentially the performance of a plot..." But what, then, would be left of Shakespeare's plays if we stripped from them every line that failed to advance the plot?

Bottom line: Mamet's writings on The Theatre often take on an absolutist or reductionist quality. They are all necessary reads for the serious dramatist and thespian nonetheless. Why? Because in "Theatre," as with his other works, Mamet points out the difference between a charlatan and an artisan.

1-0 out of 5 stars surprisingly lousy
Look, I'm a big fan of early-ish Mamet (Glengarry Glenn Ross, Speed-the-Plow) -- but this book is a hundred ways of terribly argued. It basically boils down to this: theory is bad, directors are bad, all you need are actors and a text. My problem isn't with the conclusion, but with the complete lack of argument: Mamet never proves any point, but just asserts with a frustrating lack of specificity. For instance, Mamet argues that all but a few directors could be disposed of -- but then doesn't name the directors. (Which directors make the cut? Now *that* would be an interesting essay. Otherwise, it's just hot air. And didn't Mamet just direct RACE on Broadway? Grrrr.) Likewise, Mamet asserts that director-less summer stock productions are superior to pretty much every production that has a director. (I've seen a *lot* of productions, and I've yet to see a single production without a director, summer stock or otherwise. Again, what director-less summer stock productions did he see that blew the roof off of e.g. American Idiot?).

Without specific examples from specific productions, Mamet relies far too much on special pleading and the benevolence of the reader -- a benevolence which has to earned, I'm afraid.

1-0 out of 5 stars "Theater" is to theater what "Glen Garry Glen Ross" is to real estate
Mamet is astonishingly dishonest and it's his dishonesty, not his prescriptive shallowness that makes this book interesting. Once upon a time, Mamet studied with one of the master teachers of American acting, Sanford Meisner. In "True and False" the approach to acting he recommends and by that time had installed in his own Atlantic Theater School is essentially Sandy's. But you will not find a single mention of Meisner in that book. It reads as if Mamet, having surveyed the field and found it wanting, and having worked in theater for a long time, came up with the approach on his own. He didn't, as anyone who knows anything about actor training in this country would know. That's why most of the (usually well-trained) actors I know dismissed it.

Since Mamet won't talk about his teacher, teachers being charlatans and all, it's no surprise that he also fails to mention that Meisner's work, along with that of Stella Adler (also unmentioned) and Lee Strasberg (condemned) is grounded in the pioneering work of, wait for it...Stanislavsky; the artistic director of one of the great theaters of the 20th century. There is no point in trying to condense the history of 20th century acting training in this space but suffice it to say that Stanislavsky begot Strasburg, Adler and Meisner (and through Meisner, Mamet) who encountered his work at different times and emphasized different aspects of it as central to their approaches, which then took on lives of their own. There is also no space here to discuss various theories of and approaches to acting that have produced written texts going back to the Greeks either, but it is worth noting that all of them place importance in one way or another on the thing Mamet seems most dismissive of, emotion.

As for the idea that all the audience cares about is plot? Well so much for all those authors who produced enduring and commercially successful theater without placing any particular importance on plot. I'm thinking of O'Neill, Chekhov, Albee, Beckett, Williams, Wilson and others. And if success depends on the audience only being interested in what happens next, what ofShakespeare? We already know what happens next. Still we go.

I don't know what accounts for Mamet taking himself so seriously that he can't even acknowledge his own influences and leads him to dismiss those who influenced those who taught him. That would be worth reading about. I don't know why he claims that actors either have it (talent) or they don't since he should know that anything that can't be learned or improved upon through study and practice can't be considered a skill. And maybe he doesn't think acting is a skill. I can't tell. I don't know why he thinks that an art form that is thousands of years old and is practiced in various forms in every culture needs to be rethought by David Mamet. But I do know that he hasn't said anything that anyone who takes theater seriously, and takes seriously the skills needed to create it, needs to pay attention to. ... Read more

2. Race
by David Mamet
Paperback: 80 Pages (2010-08-23)
list price: US$8.95 -- used & new: US$8.94
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0573698368
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Drama / Characters: 3 males, 1 female / Interior set / Multiple Award-winning playwright/director David Mamet tackles America's most controversial topic in a provocative new tale of sex, guilt and bold accusations. Two lawyers find themselves defending a wealthy white executive charged with raping a black woman. When a new legal assistant gets involved in the case, the opinions that boil beneath explode to the surface. When David Mamet turns the spotlight on what we think but can't say, dangerous truths are revealed, and no punches are spared. "Scapel-edged intelligence!" -New York Times"Provocative and profane!" -NY-1"Mamet is most concerned with the power and treachery of language: a line of dialogue vital to the prosecution case is cynically rewritten by the defense. Mamet's larger contention is that attempts to create a more equal and tolerant society have made race an unsayable word...brilliantly contrives here a moment in which the single most taboo sexual expletive is ignored by an audience which then gasps at the word "black"...Mamet remains American theatre's most urgent five-letter word." -The GuardianIntellectually salacious...Gripping...rapid-fire Mametian style...Mamet's new play argues, everything in America - and this play throws sex, rape, the law, employment and relationships into its 90 minutes of stage wrangling - is still about race." -Chcago Tribune"There is intrigue within intrigue, showing how personal prejudice and individual missteps govern the course of things...Mamet adroitly mixes comic darts with tragic arrows." -Bloomberg News ... Read more

3. True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor
by David Mamet
Paperback: 127 Pages (1997-02-22)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$7.73
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Asin: 0679772642
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A guide to the acting profession by a leading American playwright. He advises aspiring actors on topics such as judging a role, approaching the part, working with the playwright, undertaking auditions, and the relationship with agents and the business in general.Amazon.com Review
To hell with Stanislavsky. To hell with the Method. "The actoris onstage to communicate the play to the audience," says David Mamet."That is the beginning and the end of his and her job. To do so theactor needs a strong voice, superb diction, a supple,well-proportioned body and a rudimentary understanding of the play."Anything else--"becoming" one's part, "feeling" the character'semotions--devalues the practice of a noble craft and is useless to theplay. "The 'work' you do 'on the script' will make no difference," hecautions. "That work has already been done by a person with adifferent job title than yours. That person is the author."

But True and False does not confine itself to the work done onthe actual stage. Its brief essays contain sound advice on how anactor might apply himself or herself to the life of the actor:the proper consideration due the audition process, the selection ofparts that one accepts, and so on. Mamet delivers these kernels ofwisdom in the taut, no-nonsense prose for which he is justifiablyfamous, and, ultimately, his core principles are applicable beyond thetheater. "Speak up, speak clearly, open yourself out, relax your body,find a simple objective," he instructs. "Practice in these goals ispractice in respect for the audience, and without respect for theaudience, there is no respect for the theater; there is onlyself-absorption." Substitute "others" for "the audience" and "life"for "the theater," and could any Taoist say it better? --RonHogan ... Read more

Customer Reviews (68)

2-0 out of 5 stars Some good thoughts - but a religious text, and essentially, wrong
Mamet's book is helpful to those lost in a religious admiration for at least the American "Actor's Studio" bastardization of Stanislavski's approach to acting and stagecraft.Otherwise, the books fails badly.

It's a pretty simple point, and Mamet's right: acting is action, and it is, or should be, ultimately, performed as an improvisational, living relationship between actors, and between the actor and his or her audience.

But he hoists himself on his own petard.If he seeks to skewer the slavish religion-making of many of today's "method" adherents, Mamet proceeds to make a religion of his point of view - taking a fairly simple point, and repeating it ad nauseum throughout the expanse of the book.After awhile, reading "acting is to act" in barely altered language with each protestation gets old.

And he's flat wrong in denying the validity of many, many other things in an actor's arsenal - what Mamet disparages as "funny voices," the externals captured to aid in the illusion of character-portrayal.Here it borders on the ridiculous.Yes, an actor ideally responds to the moment to moment reality of what is transpiring on stage, that night like no other; but his or her preparation includes a helluva lot more than "learn your lines cold, and act bravely...and that's it."This approach could be why I find so much of Mamet's work charged, but ultimately uninteresting.

To take an extreme example, imagine, if you will, approaching Shakespeare with only the words memorized "cold," and nothing else.The playing of Shakespeare IS the word, sailing on the poetry and meter while being as kinetically alive - and improvisationally "brave," to use Mamet's understanding - as possible.An actor eschewing either: a "meter reader" seeking sound over life, dead on stage to any living reality happening then and there; a "method" actor believing all that matters is subtext, yielding a performance utterly muddy, with a mere wash of emotion and "action," no sense of connection ON THE WORD.Either player will render poor Shakespeare or other verse drama.A good Shakespearean actor will be well-tuned to the music, but have a physical instrument keen and open to whatever transpires, then and there, in the playing of verse.Will sing, but not sing for singing's sake, but because only verse can convey the titanic richesse within the breast and soul of the character as written.

Mamet misses this entirely, and this is but one example.Basically, Mamet ignores that an actor uses all kinds of things.Usually, graced by an open and courageous spirit, a keen, observing eye, and the honor to seek to do what nature itself gives us, in all its panoply, an actor will bring to bear a host of things internal and external to convey the paradox, artifice more truthful than life.In doing so, and in preaching so stridently his line, Mamet does the very thing he criticizes so vehemently: He makes a religion of his point of view.

Basically, not only has Mamet apparently ignored all of Stanislavski's works past An Actor Prepares,** he would try to argue with a straight face that all of what makes any fiction interesting - I would argue, CHARACTER - is non-existent, on the stage.

He couldn't be more wrong.Ultimately, it's a shortsighted, failed effort.

** And this is where Strasberg did a huge disservice to both Stanislavski, and a generation of actors seeking the truth of Stanislavski's teachings...it ain't ALL "internal" navel-gazing, and Stanislavski never said it was....read his autobiography, My Life in Art, read his two other books outlining his approach - Being a Character and Creating a Role.

4-0 out of 5 stars Powerful, provocative diatribe on the art of acting
A provocative, no-holds-barred, slap in the face to the traditional methods of acting, noted playwright, director and screenwriter David Mamet minces no words when it comes to the art of acting. Mamet's fierce opinions regarding various schools of acting are a breath of fresh air, and True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor is likely to polarize the current sentiments on how actors should prepare.

The main argument Mamet makes is that Stanislavski's "Method Acting" approach should be eliminated from acting schools -- and, in fact, acting schools themselves should be eliminated as well. I was blown away by the bold simplicity of his arguments, which fly in the face of everything I was taught in school. But in the end, I was won-over, as Mamet's insights are brilliant and true.

Terse and short, Mamet gets right to the point, but tends to repeat himself ... well, repeatedly ... which makes me wonder if he was really trying to hammer home his ideas, or if he was merely trying to fill pages -- the latter of which would be more surprising, considering his accomplishments as a writer.

This book obviously has a very specific audience in mind, so it is not recommended for everyone, but if you are interested in acting or are currently studying acting, pick this up. You won't regret it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Very Insightful
I feel like every young actor who has a serious interest in going into the business professionally should read this book. Everyone you talk to has a friend who has an aunt who knows the maid of a broadway star who gives out advice as if they were Streisand or something. I get really sick of that kind of stuff really fast and this book talks very bluntly about the reality of acting on the stage and comes straight from the master, David Mamet.

If you are an actor, read this book. It changed my life and the way I think about the business and my craft for the better.

5-0 out of 5 stars He's right, you're wrong
Mamet's book shold be required reading for anyone who hopes to be an actor.It's the truest assessment of the actor's role I've ever read.Its many nay-sayers who have weighed in here are no doubt either acting "teachers" or self-absorbed, whiny actors who feel like they're not making "art" unless they've somehow "suffered" for it.Blah, blah, blah.

Read this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
A must read for all actors, especially if you are contemplating going to school. The best career advice ever. ... Read more

4. Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama
by David Mamet
Paperback: 96 Pages (2000-06-13)
list price: US$11.95 -- used & new: US$6.34
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 037570423X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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What makes good drama? And why does drama matter in an age that is awash in information and entertainment? With bracing directness and aphoristic grace, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Glengarry Glen Ross delivers a thrillingly original treatise on his art.

To David Mamet, human beings are drama-creating animals who impose narrative structures on everything from today's weather to next year's elections. Mamet distinguishes true drama from its false variants, unravels the infamous "Second-Act Problem," amd considers the mysterious persistence of the soliloquy. Three Uses of the Knife is an inspired guide for any playwright or theatergoer that doubles as a trenchant work of moral and aesthetic philosophy.Amazon.com Review
Playwright David Mamet's three lectures at Columbia Universityare ostensibly about issues of dramatic structure, but as they unfold,and Mamet continually explores the relationship between dramaticstructure and the lives we live, much broader concerns arerevealed. Here, for example, is Mamet on political propaganda:

It is ... essential to the healthy political campaign thatthe issues be largely or perhaps totally symbolic--i.e.,non-quantifiable. Peace With Honor, Communists in the StateDepartment, Supply Side Economics, Recapture the Dream, Bring Back thePride--these are the stuff of pageant. They are not social goals; theyare, as Alfred Hitchcock told us, the MacGuffin.... The lessspecific the qualities of the MacGuffin are, the more interested theaudience will be.... A loose abstraction allows audience members toproject their own desires onto an essentially featurelessgoal.

Although occasionally academic, the overall tone of the lectures isconsistent with Mamet's no-nonsense manner of speech. He has no timefor obfuscation and little time for repetition, save when he mustabsolutely employ it for emphasis. He is passionate about goodtheater, and passionate about the truth. 3 Uses of the Knifemakes an excellent companion piece to his True and False, whichaddressed similar philosophical matters in the form of advice on theactor's craft. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (20)

5-0 out of 5 stars Life Itself As Drama
Readers should not expect another 'How To' book here.This slim philosophical essay makes the claim that we are hard-wired, as it were, to interpret our lives as dramatic narratives.And thus that 'drama' on stage or screen should reflect and enact the struggle to interpret, to make sense, to synthesise.In the process, Mamet eschews what is sometimes presented to us as 'drama', in his grumpy and dogmatic way.If the dogmatism is annoying (is this just a rant?) and the first response is to be affronted, some of us might go on to ask, 'If Mamet is wrong, what do I think?What is right?'

4-0 out of 5 stars Neo-Aristotelianism
Mamet explicates a compelling theory of drama that links the fine and liberal arts with multifarious forms of American religion and social experience.Though he falters into occasionally harsh prescriptivism, he offers a look at one way American dramatists can and do communicate their world to an audience--and, in many ways, how they communicate the audience's own world as well.

At the heart of Mamet's theory is his claim that all of us make drama out of the ordinary matter of our lives.The dramatist simply takes that hunger and constructs a public spectacle around it.This spectacle raises us up as human beings, and purges the emotions we harbor but which are unacceptable in our modern era.Theatre, in other words, retains its Aristotelian purpose in cleansing the soul.

But Mamet broadens the scope of drama, away from stately tragedy and into more humane territory.As he says, "a play is not about nice things happening to nice people.A play is about rather terrible things happening to people who are as nice or not nice as we ourselves are."In other words, though theatre still requires that characters have their hard-won pretenses stripped away, it is not only kings who must lose everything.

From this it's a short step to Mamet's assertion that "the purpose of art is not to change but to delight.I don't think its purpose is to enlighten us.I don't think it's to change us.I don't think it's to teach us."This is especially good advice for young writers who have been coached by public school English courses to see literature as a manifesto to be decoded.Too many young writers think their work will transform society and remake us as better people.In the name of enlightenment they inflict on audiences the dreariest dumbbell harangues mankind can imagine.

No, much better to delight first.But for theatre to have Mamet's holy purification role, we must broaden the definition of "delight" to encompass the whole range of human emotion, uplifting or otherwise.The role of art is to make us feel deeply, not think correctly.And if, in performing the former, it accomplishes the latter, so much the better, but reversing the order will create sterile, unengaging work.

Mamet's theory is based on his own works, and the goals he sets for his own writing.Therefore, easy as it is to agree with his statements about the audience, the problem play, or the MacGuffin, it's tough sledding when he says that we CAN'T commit acts he considers errors.Plainly we can, since Clifford Odets' agit-prop plays still get produced, and plays that most disdain the audience are often the ones with the biggest endowments.Yet for those who aim for Mamet's scale of accomplishment, this theory is a confident place from which we can begin our own creative process.

In a few places Mamet pitches high and outside.His claim that the forced monologue he disparages as "The Death of My Kitten" interferes with the audience's reception of the play is tough to stomach.There are reasons why we don't want to sit though maudlin accounts of old news, but Mamet says: "If we are to identify with the Hero, which is to say, to see her story as our own, she can have had no `state' before the beginning of the story."

This is palpable nonsense, and surely Mamet himself doesn't believe that.If he did, why bother mentioning Shelly's daughter in Glengarry Glen Ross?Or John's mortgage and tenure troubles in Oleanna?If we are to claim the Hero as ourselves, she must have a state, even if a dull disquisition isn't the way to illuminate it.

Similarly, his round condemnation of American musicals, packed flippantly in with his excoriation of "problem plays," doesn't fit squarely.It's true that musicals are often plot-driven and suffer with timid characters and pat endings.This is incompatible with what Mamet sees as the purpose and origin of drama, but it doesn't mean all musicals are equal or that they are a blight on the theatre.It simply means that they subscribe to a different dramaturgical theory.

But for all his high-handed pietism, Mamet offers a compelling theory of American drama in the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries.His vision, though perhaps tinted by his own work, at root makes contemporary the theories that have guided drama since time out of mind.In an age when much writing drifts listlessly, with neither audience nor intention visible to the naked eye, Mamet offers badly needed direction, and hope that writers can be about something in the tricky modern world.

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential
David Mamet, the master of Drama, gives advice and technique in this GREAT book. Truly a must have for the aspiring writer of drama!

5-0 out of 5 stars So much in this short volume.
I read this book every year, and every year I take something new from it.There's SO much in this short book.It's FILLED with truth about life, art, and life & art.

3-0 out of 5 stars David Dramamet
Through studying David Mamet's theories, I came to realise that a character can be understood not only through what they do, but also through what they say. My style has started to incorporate Mamet's technique of having characters talk, often to each other, as well as to express themselves through physical acts like gestures and walking. The education in this book has convinced me to abandon my earlier style, where characters have wordless internal monologues while not moving for a play's 2 or 3 hour duration.

3 stars.

... Read more

5. On Directing Film
by David Mamet
Paperback: 128 Pages (1992-01-01)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$6.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140127224
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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From a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright comes invaluable insights and practical instructions on the art of film directing. Mamet looks at every aspect of directing--from script to cutting room--and draws from a wide variety of sources to make his points.Amazon.com Review
According to David Mamet, a film director must, above allthings, think visually. Most of this instructive and funny book iswritten in dialogue form and based on film classes Mamet taught atColumbia University. He encourages his students to tell their storiesnot with words, but through the juxtaposition of uninflectedimages. The best films, Mamet argues, are composed of simpleshots. The great filmmaker understands that the burden of cinematicstorytelling lies less in the individual shot than in the collectivemeaning that shots convey when they are edited together. Mamet borrowsmany of his ideas about directing, writing, and acting from Russianmasters such as Konstantin Stanislavsky, Sergei M. Eisenstein, andVsevelod Pudovkin, but he presents his material in so delightful andlively a fashion that he revitalizes it for the contemporary reader. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (31)

5-0 out of 5 stars Film School in a book
Just the same Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST teaches everything there is to know on how to make a movie, writer/director Mamet shares his know-how on the medium in this insightful but direct manual on how to present drama in a film and come out alive from it. Absolutely essential.

5-0 out of 5 stars Dogmatic but fun - and useful
Of the hundreds of 'How To' books on movie making - or mostly screenwriting - this slim volume is succinct, provocative, dogmatic (as only Mamet is dogmatic), witty and more use than twenty texts on 'the rules'.It contains no doubt edited lectures to Colombia students - and sometime the students' too hasty responses.Although it's called 'On Directing Film', it is possibly of more use to writers in terms of what is necessary in a piece of screen storytelling and what is redundant dead wood.Mamet's ideas on 'backstory' and exposition - unnecessary - for instance, are radical, but his funny examples of how 'explaining' kills narrative drive are worth considering.Some may object that if one were to follow Mamet's principles, one would end up with a Mamet movie - that is, something less than a box office smash.But that is not the point.The point is to cause one to question one's own work and that can't be a bad thing.

4-0 out of 5 stars Do as I say
In this extremely short book composed of a series of lectures he gave in 1990, screenwriter turned director David Mamet puts forth his approach to directing. At the time he directed two films - "House of Games" (1987) and "Things Change" (1988). He would go on to make several more - "Homicide" (1991), "Oleanna" (1994), "The Spanish Prisoner" (1997), "The Winslow Boy" (1999), "Catastrophe" (2000), "State and Main" (2000), "Heist" (2001), "Spartan" (2004), and "Redbelt" (2008).

For none of his dozen films as a director has he received any award or nomination, although his work as a screenwriter has received many awards, including two best screenplay Oscar and Golden Globe nominations ("Way the Dog", "The Verdict") and 4 WGA nominations ("The Verdict", "The Untouchables", "Glengarry Glen Ross", and "Wag the Dog"). Films he wrote and directed never got an award/nomination for directing, but did receive acknowledgement for the writing, such as "House of Games", "The Spanish Prisoner", and "Homicide".

In the book, Mamet criticizes actors who bring more to the scene than the simple desire to follow the action. This seems like a strange recommendation for a director who frequently uses such actors as Ricky Jay, J.T. Walsh and Joe Mantagna, although we can see his model actor in people like William Macy and Alec Baldwin whom he also uses repeatedly.

It's also interesting to note that Mamet maintains that the best directing is done by juxtaposing visual images which is something we expect from John Ford or Michael Mann, but certainly not from a director whose main trademark is his powerful use of dialogue. Only in his last film, Redbelt, has he displayed his commitment to the visual in the manner that one would expect from this book.

Despite the contradictions, the book is interesting to examine Mamet's professed approach to directing circa 1990. It's well written and several pages involve actual transcripts of teaching sessions which I found instructive and worthwhile.

5-0 out of 5 stars Must reading for anyone who wants to direct
Ignore the advice here at your peril.David Mamet has a forty-year career in the theater and in film because he KNOWS THINGS.In his books, like this one, he shares THOSE THINGS.

Any intelligent reader picks the grain and leaves the chaff behind.You don't have to direct your actors to be "wooden" or "stilted."In fact, he never asks you to, not even in his equally excellent book on acting (/True and False/).If you are wise, however, you do consider what the shot means, how it is a unit of the scene, how to tell the story efficiently with action - in short, you master the vital parts of filmmaking FIRST.

This isn't a technical manual - lots of good ones already exist - but a provocative, and therefore challenging, attempt to address the underlying principles behind making a film. If more film schools insisted their students master these concepts (yes, I have a friend who went through the directing program at AFI), we'd have less dreck at the cineplex.

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
The most important thing to learn about directing from this book is that it's all about the story. Mamet summed it up succinctly and profoundly. The book is quite short, and I read it in one day. So, if you're looking for a wordy, authoritative tome, this is not the book for you. If you want a book that will clarify the director's role and put you on the road to refining your skills, this is the book for you. ... Read more

6. Oleanna
by David Mamet
Paperback: Pages (1998-01)
list price: US$7.50 -- used & new: US$4.91
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Asin: 0822213435
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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"An ear for reproducing everyday language has long been David Mamet's hallmark and he has now employed it to skewer the dogmatic, puritannical streak which has become commonplace on and off the campus. With Oleanna he continues an exploration of male-female conflicts begun with Sexual Perversity in Chicago in 1974. Oleanna cogently demonstrates that when free thought and dialogue are imperilled, nobody wins." (Michael Wise, Independent)In Oleanna "John and Carol go to it with hand-to hand combat that amounts to a primal struggle for power. As usual with Mamet, the vehicle for that combat is crackling, highly distilled dialogue unencumbered by literary frills or phony theatrical ones." (Frank Rich, International Herald Tribune) ... Read more

Customer Reviews (30)

5-0 out of 5 stars Alive and Well and Living in America
Totalitarianism, that is.That is what is alive and well and living in the gool ole U.S. of A.As Mamet powerfully represents in this punch-to-the-stomach play, it has found a comfortable spot on American college campuses.

Yes, the dialogue in OLEANNA is a bit to get through at times, with far more interruptions between characters than there really needs to be, especially in a play with only two of them.But OLEANNA'S impact lays far deeper than the lines.

Carol, a young student struggling with her school work, goes to see the professor, John.He takes the time to talk with her in an attempt to help her through the class.Nothing particularly offensive or egregious happens in this initial meeting, comprosing Act One of the play.John might come off as a bit, though just a bit, arrogant.Carol is simply weak and desperate to try to pass John's class.

By Act Two, however, Carol has found her strength.Her "group" has provided it to her, and now, thanks to the group-think mentality common among totalitarian ideologies, she interprets all of John's behavior from Act One in a manner absolutely consistent with her new world-view.This interpretation is simply and relentlessly negative.Further, as her "group" does not appear to be of the forgiving type, Carol is intent on completely destroying John's career and even his life.

Many people, trying to seem 'fair,' split the difference between Carol and John, opining that John's words are ambiguous, and it is not really clear who is at fault.This is hogwash.Although a few select phrases of John might be construed as ambiguous, it takes a willful attempt at pejorative interpretation to view them in such a dark light.There is, however, absolutely nothing ambiguous about Carol's "group" interpreting things in the single most malicious manner, nor is there anything ambiguous about Carol's explicit desire to destroy John's career.Even the most generous interpretation would have Carol openly destroying a man who has helped her based on, at best, vague and unclear comments.

Such King Solomon interpretations must come from either the exact members of Carol's group that exist in real life (read: feminists) who realize how bad they appear, how bad they are, and figure a draw is better than nothing, or, in the alternative, those who are not themselves ideologues with clear psychological problems with men, but who want to avoid the flack of stating the obvious and finding themselves the targets of feminists' wrath.(Though, to be fair, a third option exists.That feminists have been so successful at transforming the cultural landscape with their hostility towards men that even otherwise good people interpret relations between men and women in a skewed manner consistent with the new zeitgeist that has emerged).

A case study of rhetorical gymnastics and personal manipulation, OLEANNA is a cautionary tale.There always have been, and always will be, people who are spiteful and who display obvious antipathy towards select others.But when an entire belief system is created revolving around such a mentality and, worse, this coalesces into a political movement that create policies consistent with such attitudes, lives get destroyed.

2-0 out of 5 stars But Then, What Am I Doing Here...?
Audience members tend to get caught up in the question of whether John or Carol is the villain of this tightly focused set piece.The circumstance is ambiguous enough to admit of multiple variations.But more important that that is the question: would you pay money to see a production of this play?And if not, why was it written?

It's interesting to compare this 1992 play to the movies Mamet was writing and directing at about the same time.In his movies, the characters tended to speak in flat tones, delivering stilted dialog with the ease and spontaneity of fossils on display.Here, however, the characters use vintage Mamet-speak straight out of the plays that made him famous in the 1980s.

However, this play lacks the glimmer of his earlier works.It feels like a Mamet-influenced writing student trying to get a handle on writing dialog.The writing is so elliptical and fragmented that it starts to seem like a parody of American Buffalo or Glengarry Glen Ross, only without the irony necessary to sell a persuasive parody.

These lines are loose enough to admit of different interpretations from different actors.Some actors coax sterling performances from the lines.But the play gives so few directions, is so devoid of beats, and is so reliant on the vagaries of individual performers, that productions I've seen have had shining moments of genius scattered like raisins in a pudding of mediocrity.

The misogyny inherent in most of Mamet is on glaring display here.Carol transitions from stereotypes of drooping wet rag to ball-busting harpy without pause for a genuinely earned emotion between.And while it's easy to see John as a slavering archetype of an oversexed professor, Carol's vengeance is so out of proportion to his actions that we are plainly led to loan our sympathies to John and see Carol as Medea.

Because of its obscurity, reviews of this play's debut suggested Mamet was asking whether it's necessary for an audience to know what is going on.I suggest that it is not.But if we don't know, and have little cause to care, there's no reason for us to watch.This play has come to be regarded as a classic, but I'm unsure why.It's just not up to Mamet's accustomed standard.

4-0 out of 5 stars Skilled dialogue drama which does not overpower
This is a fast- paced little drama in hard- hitting colloquial language. Two characters a university teacher and his student are the whole action. It begins with the girl student petitioning for a passing grade, but in time becomes complicated by her charging the teacher with harassment. As their dialogue is going on the teacher is also having to deal with the purchase of a house, and family problems. Both teacher and student feel failures but somehow the common element of their situation does not bring them to sympathetic understanding and conclusion.
Obviously this is a look at the new 'politically correct' ethic which has infested much of campus discourse and life.
I found it an interesting exercise. But it somehow did not move me on a very deep level.

2-0 out of 5 stars Oleanna - Mean and Frustrating
"Oleanna" was a very, very frustrating read for me. First of all, a lot of it probably has to do with the fact that it is meant to be seen and heard, not read. Nonetheless, I'm convinced that a lot of the frustration is intentional. Everything the characters say is mixed up, incompleted, and confusing. The author, or playwright, Mamet, seems to have a very condescending opinion, almost disgust, for the English language. The confusion and misunderstanding is written in a way that makes our language appear almost pointless. I can't help but thinking to myself that anything can be put in a bad light, and shown to be a source of evil and violence, but why make a point of it (at least when its fundamentally unchangeable, like our basic language)? From my reading, I took the conclusion of the story to be something like "Language is futile, and fails us when we need it most." Of all the things I've read in my college literature course, "Oleanna" has been the only thing to leave a distinctly sour taste in my mouth.

Perhaps I'm missing the beauty of the writing, or the composition, or something... but overall this seemed to be a very mean spirited and ultimately pointless read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Mainzerjacob got it right!
Although this play has often been characterized as a critique of "political correctness" gone insane, coming as it does on the heels of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, the earlier reviewer got it right.Read the epigraph!This is a play that rewards multiple readings and is worthy of a place in the curriculum of a college English class.One thing is certain: it will inspire class discussion! ... Read more

7. Life in the Theatre
by David Mamet
Paperback: 120 Pages (1994-01-14)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$8.21
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Asin: 0802150675
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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In a series of short, spare, and increasingly raw exchanges, we see the estrangement of youth from age and the wider, inevitable, endlessly cyclical rhythm of the world.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars On Broadway in Fall 2010
I've been reading and viewing David Mamet plays and movies for 25 years, but I had not seen this until recently on Broadway with Patrick Stewart and TR Knight.A Life in the Theatre is a delightful and whimsical inside-the-theatre wink-at-the-audience homage to actors' pomposities and insecurities.

Having seen the recent staging, I can understand how examining the script and stage instructions alone could be a challenge to the imagination.Without the execution of the sight gags and the dagger-like quips between the actors the dialogue could indeed be a bit dry.But, having seen the play performed, I was eager to read it to revisit the dialogue with Stewart's and Knight's performances fresh in my mind.

My favorite sight gag (spoiler alert):the scene opens with the actors onstage performing to the fictional audience, with the actual audience viewing the scene from the back of the staged theater.In the actual background (imaginary foreground) are plywood waves elevating up and down to stimulate a rolling ocean.In the actual foreground (imaginary background behind the plywood waves) are the actors in a single-masted lifeboat, rigged on a teeter-totter operated by the actors legs which poke out of the bottomless lifeboat hull.But the actors start their boat rocking out of sequence with the stagehands' operation of the waves, such that when the right side waves go up, the left side of the lifeboat teeters up, which the actual audience grasps will hide one actor below the waves and leave the other actor's legs exposed as sticking out of the bottom of the boat to the imagined audience.That's the joke -- and the scene goes on for several minutes of overacting and tortured dialogue, and all the while the actors never get the boat in synch with the waves.I'm cracking up now, but seeing it and reading/imagining it are two different experiences.

5-0 out of 5 stars You're all wrong. This is a greatplay.
I saw this play Off-Broadway in the 1970's and was mesmerized. This is Mamet in a very tender mood. It rings with authenticity and has one of the funniest onstage scenes ever written. It is a beautiful elegy to actors working at what they love.

4-0 out of 5 stars Read Between The Lines People!
O.K., I know that many Mamet fans were disapointed with this one but I, for one, wasn't. This was actually the first Mamet play that I was introduced to (Before then I didn't even know that David Mamet existed) and I absolutly loved it, after reading it a few times. Yes, at first the dialouge (SP?) seems rather bland but, as my title says, you need to read between the lines! Use your imagination! There is something powerful about this piece because of all the underlaying tension. So read it! If you're patient, that is.

2-0 out of 5 stars yawn....
For a Mamet play, this one sure was a let-down.The play deals with the relationship between two actors - one older and one younger.Occasionally the dialogue between the two is mildly interesting, but more often than not it is tedious and boring.The scenes are short and virtually interchangable with no real depth of character.If you've read one exchange between the characters, you've basically read them all.Only a Mamet fanatic would truly enjoy this work.

3-0 out of 5 stars mediocre mamet
this is a slight and unimpressive play, especially when one takes into account mamet's impressive body of work.This play focuses on the huge gap between an older, waning actor and a young promising one.The interactionbetween the two is often fascinating, and the scenes in which they performfrom the play they are acting in are very telling of their 'real life'characters.Overall this was a disapointment, and should probably onlyinterest completist mamet fans. ... Read more

8. Writing in Restaurants
by David Mamet
Paperback: 176 Pages (1987-10-01)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$4.69
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Asin: 0140089810
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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4-0 out of 5 stars Misc Essays By David Mamet
As a sometime admirer, but not exactly a fan of, David Mamet's theater work, I wasn't sure how much I'd care for this short collection of essays. I'm very glad I took the chance. Mamet writes clearly and firmly. He's the opposite of dogmatic. He can be harsh but he can also be thoughtful. Most of these essays are on theater related topics but not all. My favorite was the one on The Cherry Orchard.

To sum up - many short, intellectually stimulating, essays written by a guy who knows how to grab a reader.

Note - Mamet's other essay collection, Jafsie and John Henry is similarly excellent. If you liked this you'll probably like that. Also, it's subject matter is a little more diverse.

4-0 out of 5 stars Delicious!
Pull up a chair at your favorite sidewalk cafe's, order a latte or a spicy red Zin, and let our finest, living, American playwright tell you...well, whatever he's thinking about today. Here the master storyteller is opinionated (though not a bit condescending or patronizing), thoughtful, and ever-fascinating.

You will laugh, learn, and be encouraged to think out loud on paper.(Write something!) This is a book to be kept "out" (not tucked away on a shelf collecting dust and disinterest.) I carry it in my day bag for amonth-at-a-time, leave it on the end table in the "living room" of my loft to read in between salad and the evening movie, or just setting on top of my old, leather-bound dictionary (in my "writing lounge") along with Mr. Chesterton and "Walking On Water" (L'Engle) for a quick hit of inspiration.

This little (160 pages) tome is like having an endlessly curious friend on-call to clink wine glasses and share their latest musings on . . . whenever you need them. Wine and Mamet. You can't lose.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good stuff here
There are some really great essays in this book, especially if you're a person who loves the theater. Much like "True and False", this book takes aim at problems plaguing America's theater. His best essays in here are for actors - they inspire and reclaim some of the art's dignity.

Also, if you're like me, you can appreciate his essay in here on pool halls. I've never seen anyone nail why they're such great places to visit like he does in this book.

This isn't his best work. But it's a pleasant read nonetheless. Worth the time.

4-0 out of 5 stars Inspiring one to be better
This book's strength was that it made me challenge my own beliefs.As a filmmaker and writer, I have developed a sense for writing crap that appeals to the lowest common denominator.Mamet made me re-evaluate what made me become a writer, and the importance of the theater.I find his writing very interesting from the standpoint that he is very much of the theater, and an elitist as a result, but he is very favorable when discussing Hollywood.I think everyone should read his section on the Oscars in this book.Overall, I was very pleased I read the book, and would have to ultimately recommend it to others.

5-0 out of 5 stars Eat and Write A Novel
David Mamets "Writing In Restaraunts" is a perfect execution of playwriting technique guidance and education.When Mamet, the pulitzer prize winning author, combines his know how of writing business and hissuave writing style, you get "the goods".Do yourself a favor,and purchase this book. ... Read more

9. The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-hatred, and the Jews (Jewish Encounters)
by David Mamet
Paperback: 208 Pages (2009-09-15)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$7.22
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Asin: 0805211578
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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David Mamet's interest in anti-Semitism is not limited to the modern face of an ancient hatred but encompasses as well the ways in which many Jews have internalized that hatred.Using the metaphor of the Wicked Son at the Passover seder (the child who asks, "What does this story mean to you?") Mamet confronts what he sees as an insidious predilection among some Jews to exclude themselves from the equation and to seek truth and meaning anywhere--in other religions, political movements, mindless entertainment--but in Judaism itself. He also explores the ways in which the Jewish tradition has long been and still remains the Wicked Son in the eyes of the world.Written with the searing honesty and verbal brilliance that is the hallmark of Mamet's work, The Wicked Son is a powerfully thought-provoking look at one of the most destructive and tenacious forces in contemporary life. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (33)

4-0 out of 5 stars Compelling and Timely
Jewish Anti-Semitism (not a cute pun on Arab claims of shared Semite classification), has been with us as long as there have been Jews.Speaking as a Jew who finds it increasingly difficult not to dislike many of those who claim, as Mamet points out is their usual self-defining introduction, to "be Jewish but not ..." as they qualify what makes them more acceptable than run of the mill Jews.Well, as the child of European Jews who were the sole survivors of their respective large families, I follow the rule that if one is Jewish enough for a Nazi death camp, well that's Jewish enough for me and if one is Jewish, one ought not go out of one's way to undermine the survival of the Jews to curry favor with their worst enemies.That is a long-winded way of saying that even though I too am not particularly observant, I am not suicidal and I stand with Mamet and agree that that Rahm, Chomsky and Zinn types have done themselves, their fellow Jews and America no favors and just in case they don't know it, the people who hate Jews hate them too and will be happy to cut their heads off when the opportunity arises.A bonus for this reader of this book is that mamet really is a good writer even though I couldn't go for all 5 stars because it was a wee bit repetitive but, then again, so is the endless loop of Anti-Semitism and the frequent Jewish response of cringing self-hate that looks, walks and quacks just like Anti-Samitism too. A must read for those who can't figure it out and for those of us who probably can but wish we didn't have no many opportunities to do so.

5-0 out of 5 stars Life changing
This is hard to swallow, but it is meant to be hard to swallow. its molten lead tickling the tonsils.
while obviously this is written for middle-class ambitious, andsuccessful american jews it hits me hard in the heart. as a european jew, russian to be precise. my constant balancing act of wanting to be observant and fearing the responsibility that comes with the torah, not to mention trying to keep a sense of individuality, which i too am starting to realize is nothing more than an illusion. is under attack by Mamet.

It hurts even more so because this is precisely what i learned in 6 years of hebrew school. and as much as i rebelled and took interest in every single religion i can find in the world including Zecharia Sitchins obsession with aliens, i still turn my eyes towards God and Judaism.

Why this book is so life changing is because it puts into my mind the idea that i am not alone in the struggle to escape my clan's collectivism, its fight for survival. Is the writing repetitive, indeed it is, does it matter, no.

why should it matter when the man is having a conversation with you as an equal and not as that of a student. he is talking to you with mercy and sympathy as opposed to strict hard view points.

if you are a jew who like me has been searching in every part of the world, every corner for your 'soul' pretending that it is not already within you, ready to embrace god, then pick up this book, don't be afraid of what you might learn about yourself

4-0 out of 5 stars Mametis in good form in The Wicked Son. review by K Conrey
I've come to theconclusion that the two professional reviewers are themselves anti-Semitic. I found the book to be very interesting and not at all disjointed. The author hasvery specific views about current problems in Jewish Congregations. I found his analysis of the problems and his responses to them to be very interesting and helpful.Enjoy!The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-hatred, and the Jews (Jewish Encounters)

3-0 out of 5 stars Great topic, but scattered presentation of a crucial theme
Mamet's brief defense of Jewish pride against his fellow Jews preening their self-loathing meanders, yet, as with much of his drama and film, his barbed messages prickle your complacency. He argues that the sadly familiar figure of today's secular Jew delighting in demeaning Torah, mocking synagogue, and defying tradition is rooted in the "wicked son" who challenges the family, the tribe, at the ritual recital of the Seder. He suggests that the Torah itself's addressed to such a skeptic or rebel.

He wonders about the Jews whose favorite role model's Anne Frank, with nobody in second place. The Jew that idolizes a Japanese tea ritual but who cannot bother to remember if Rosh Hashanah precedes Yom Kippur. The Jew who tells the anti-Jewish joke while insisting on telling it to the Jews he claims to separate himself from, but with whom he's impelled to keep parading his childish nonconformity.

He challenges those denouncing the IDF's "reprisals" and "retaliations" to come up with a better plan of defending an entity the size of Vermont against a billion who are taught that Zionism above all can be blamed for all evils against Islam. He links the pro-forma leftist denunciation of Israeli actions to the "blood libel"-- that Jews "delight in the blood of others" peddled for so many centuries. (11)

Mamet's on less firm ground when it comes to psychological explanations for Jewish self-loathing. Who else would take in one who hates his own family, his own tribe? This commonsensical question leads him into tangents about Santa Claus and solstice sacrifice of children, as he struggles to understand the "conflicted winter Jews" who celebrate their apostasy. He sees this as part of "a universal desire to revert to paganism" that shows why Chanukah bushes are invented to imitate Christmas trees. He muses: "Religion came into being to supplant the anomie and excess of paganism." (29) He finds religion, Christianity or Judaism, to each his own, battles this regression to the pagan with the comfort of the tribe, the people, the ritual.

He finds many of his fellow Jews lost. He wonders poignantly if in five generations, as people may with a great-great-grandmother who was Cherokee, our descendants will reflect on "Jewish blood" way back in their assimilated, probably secular or Christian, family. Yet, for now, he figures Jews are far too close to their five thousand years of observance "for any lapsed Jew to feel anything other than self-loathing of its Doppelganger, arrogant assurance of his escape." (46)

From this Jewish heritage, he finds solace and strength. "Judaism, as a spiritual, ethical, or social practice, has at its core a mystery so deep that not only is its existence hidden from the uninitiated but its very practitioners are hated and scorned, reviled and murdered as necromancers. What is the fear the Jew engenders and that manifests itself as hatred? Perhaps it is caused by his historical, absolute, terrifying certainty that there is a God." (60)

This passage shows Mamet at his best. The short chapters, however, roam about the self-hatred analysis without coming to much more of a resolution than this eloquence. Maybe it's impossible to go further into the mystery. The remaining two-thirds of this short book has its moments-- Mamet's great at showing the conviviality of the film set and how membership has its privileges in a common pursuit-- but the topics then blur and scatter.

He often puts down yoga-practicing, life-coach employing, analyst-addicted, Buddhists once Jewish. I'd add gently-- as Rodger Kamenetz in "The Jew in the Lotus" and "Stalking Elijah" (both reviewed by me last month here on Amazon) reports-- that many Jews can combine meditation and mystical pursuits with an eclectic, Orthodox-tinged or Renewal-affiliated, version of Judaism that works for them. One need not adhere to Mamet's analogy of the AA meeting-- "you go because you want to go; you go because you don't want to go"-- to sitting in shul and making yourself like it despite the fact you may not. I agree with his defense of attending temple for those wishing to reconnect, but there are many temples and many ways Jews can practice beyond the ossified norms. He, given his chapter about the poor shul by the freeway or that about his rabbi who refused to put up donors' names on plaques, needs to be aware that many of his fellow Jews are bored by the conventional service, and may seek other venues as they adapt Torah to contemporary mindsets.

Still, this section from "Well Poisoning" deserves sharing. He wonders why "Moslem extremists may not bomb New York, bur rational human beings-- some, to their shame, Jews-- hold that jihadists may bomb Jerusalem. The apologists are or pretend to be incapable of differentiating between the lamentable and decried death of civilians in a military reprisal, and the targeted strategic murder of schoolchildren." Subsequent events in Lebanon and Gaza only repeat this scenario of what the critics if not Mamet label "moral equivalency" or "proportionate response" against terror.

He continues: This license is precarious, for the Palestinians, raised by unsettled Western thought to superhuman status, enjoy that status only as a counterpoint to the bestiality of the Jews. Should the Palestinians choose, in their uncontrollable sorrow and extremity, to bomb New York, they would find their license revoked." (145) One wonders about this alternative storyline.

This assault against complacency reminded me of two recent books I reviewed this week on Amazon US, Oriana Fallaci's post-9/11 "The Rage and the Pride" and Bernard-Henry Levy's "Left in Dark Times." Like Fallaci and Levy, Mamet rises to what's become among the media and the chattering classes and opinion-makers and professoriate an unpopular cause. His book, like the two others, will probably incite many to lash out against them and anyone who agrees with a modicum of their liberal discourse in the name of tolerance and defense of "tough Jews."

But, such voices deserve an audience, and one finishes this book not knowing much at all about why Mamet shifted, apparently, towards a more assertive embrace of his heritage. This will reveal nothing personally about his choice-- I recall reading when it came out an interview with him conducted with a Jewish newspaper as he ate a bacon sandwich. Out of such idiosyncratic gestures, perhaps the restive Mamet creates his own way of being Torah-true for today, if not by tradition.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant in Every Respect
As someone who loves Mamet's movies and plays I was expecting a fun and thoughtful ride.

The deep understanding of religious thought and history that Mamet brings to the issue is exceptional in every way. His depth of knowledge is breathtaking when combined with his understanding of human nature and his command of the language. It ought to be required reading for any Jew who sees the inside of a synagogue less than 3 times a year and recommended for the rest. ... Read more

10. Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business (Vintage)
by David Mamet
Paperback: 272 Pages (2008-02-12)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$7.89
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Asin: 1400034442
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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From the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and playwright: an exhilaratingly subversive inside look at Hollywood from a filmmaker who’s always played by his own rules.

Who really reads the scripts at the film studios? How is a screenplay like a personals ad? Why are there so many producers listed in movie credits? And what on earth do those producers do anyway? Refreshingly unafraid to offend, Mamet provides hilarious, surprising, and refreshingly forthright answers to these and other questions about every aspect of filmmaking from concept to script to screen. A bracing, no-holds-barred examination of the strange contradictions of Tinseltown, Bambi vs. Godzilla dissects the movies with Mamet’s signature style and wit. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (31)

5-0 out of 5 stars Interesting and thought provoking
This is another great book from David Mamet, filled with interesting insights.
The anecdotes are great too. Recommended for anyone with an interest in the movie industry.

3-0 out of 5 stars Another Mamet collection of essays posing as a real book
I've read a couple of these Mamet books, and they're inevitably a letdown.It's clear that Bambi vs. Godzilla is just a collection of old essays that he -- or some agent of his, you get the idea he might not have even been bothered to be involved -- slapped together to make a few extra bucks rather than a thoughtfully constructed treatment of "The Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business" as the cover advertises.You'll get random little one-offs on various aspects of the movie business, and because of the nature of this beast, there's frequent repetition of ideas and examples (I lost track of the times he references his favorite film, "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp", to illustrate the same points).

Mamet being Mamet, he does have a lot of insight into the business and his blunt candor is sometimes refreshing, though just as often you get the sense that he advances certain ideas and opinions purely for their shock value ("The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp"?Really?).As other reviewers have noted, Mamet has a tendency to oversimplify.He's always stressing the fundamentals, which is all well and good, but he seems to favor a simple, strong, often curmudgeonly opinion over a more nuanced exploration of any given subject area.You can get the gist of his core opinions by reading the first third of the book or so, and the rest is just redundant, especially since no effort seems to have been taken to work the essays into a more coherent whole.Be warned that he has little to say about the real nuts and bolts of the craft.If you're looking for practical advice, you'd be better off reading Aristotle's "Poetics", which he frequently references and apparently considers to be the beginning and end of dramatic theory.

On the plus side, Mamet the dedicated cinephile will give you plenty of titles to add to your Netflix queue.I even added the aforementioned "Colonel Blimp" out of curiosity.And indeed, Mamet will give you a good, bold refresher course in the fundamentals of drama.

I wonder what a book on the movie biz, or playwriting, or directing by Mamet would look like if he actually sat down to write a book instead of just slapping together essays or transcripts of his lectures.Still waiting for it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Mamet on Film
This is a wonderful book, a series of readable, erudite, witty, practical and very wise essays on film - a subject few write on well. David Mamet of course made his name as a playwright and theatre director long before going on to working on filmscripts and directing films; this background gives him both a specialised dramaticknowledge andthe sort of genuine literary credentials few in Hollywood have matched. (Mamet is, incidentally, also unusual in being an American director with a keen sense of the history of British film.) It's a key book on the cinema.

5-0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking Insight
Mamet does it again!In BAMBI VS. GODZILLA, he offers essays which provide new ways of looking at motion picture production, writing and life.He inspires.He challenges.He shares ways of looking at things that are as profound and simple as they are new.I wish I could have gotten this kind of clarity in the university courses I took!I especially enjoyed the section on screenwriting, including a "secret bonus chapter" with tips that will clarify major issues for most beginning writers of fiction and drama.Mamet has the advantage of an excellent education and a journeyman's straightforward way of seeing the aesthetics of film and theatre, along with a no-nonsense way of explaining what he believes will benefit any reader.Whether you're a fan, a serious reader, an aspiring writer or actor, or even just someone who dreams of working on a motion picture crew some day, this book is for you.

2-0 out of 5 stars David Mamet is old, old news
Mamet's every argument justifies his native cynicism, which really begins to pall after - oh, you know, three pages. His style is limited, his Hollywood observations can be funny, but all in all, he's old and bored and it shows. ... Read more

11. Romance
by David Mamet
Paperback: 54 Pages (2007-09-30)
list price: US$7.50 -- used & new: US$6.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0822221276
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Pulitzer Prize—winning playwright David Mamet’s Romance is an uproarious, take-no-prisoners courtroom comedy that gleefully lampoons everyone from lawyers and judges, to Arabs and Jews, to gays and chiropractors.
It’s hay fever season, and in a courtroom a judge is popping antihistamines. He listens to the testimony of a Jewish chiropractor, who’s a liar, according to his anti-Semitic defense attorney. The prosecutor, a homosexual, is having a domestic squabble with his lover, who shows up in court in a leopard-print thong. And all the while, a Middle East peace conference is taking place. Masterfully wielding the argot of the courtroom, David Mamet creates a world in microcosm in which shameless fawning, petty prejudices, and sheer caprice hold sway, and the noble apparatus of law and order degenerates into riotous profanity. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Funny, Funny Mamet
Mamet is one of my five favorite dialogue playwrights. (Mamet, Sorkin, JHHK, Whedon, QT) And this play is one of my favorite Mamet plays. I bought this and Redbelt. If you've never heard of David Mamet, I don't think you will be reading this review. I own every play and movie Mamet ever wrote. And I put this amoung his funniest.

If I was still in college, I would direct this. I directed Speed-The-Plow, American Buffalo, The Woods, and Oh Hell, all within two years. And I wish Romance would have been out back then. If you're on the fence, try it!

5-0 out of 5 stars "WEAreGodzilla"
David Mamet's hilarious courtroom comedy takes as its premise that nobody's sacred and nothing's sacred, at least in our politically correct current society. His characters include, among others, a gay prosecuting attorney, a defendant who's an anti-Christian Jewish chiropractor, his own anti-semitic defense attorney, and a judge high on antihistamines. Taking place in the city outside the courtroom is a shallow Peace Conference called to resolve Arab/Israeli conflict in the Middle East. The key question at the comedy's heart and put to the squabbling people in the courtroom is, "How can you have peace in the Middle East when you can't have peace in your home?" The judge dreams or remembers a filmfeaturing "a clean land untroubled by pollution. Untouched by strife. With liberty and compassion for all its citizens." This utopian land is then destroyed by a Godzilla like lizard. Within the comedy, the human squabblers in the courtroom -i.e. all the characters - are their own Godzillas and render any scheme for the universal improvement of mankind
illusory. Mamet's vision here is Aristophanic or Swiftian; satirically observing its representatives in the play, he refuses to romanticize the damned human race.

The vivacity of the comedy springs by and large from its verbal brilliance, specifically through the speed and accuracy with which the characters go for each other's jugulars. One late entering character, for example, who is an actual M.D. goes after the chiropractor, addressing him as a thing rather than a person, asking "Is it mad because it didn't get into medical school...?" Not to be outdone, the chiropractor naturally begins to physically strangle the doctor, while getting in as the last word, "Cure cancer you arrogant f***!" Peace in the Middle East? Yeah, right!

The old canard that used to be routinely applied to Chekhov's plays, that they were plotless, is fairly often applied with equal injustice to Mamet's these days. If one peers an inch beneath the surface of the four scenes of "Romance," it's hard not to be struck by the increasing revelations that emerge from each of the skillfully placed encounters between the characters. Under the surface of apparent disorder and frenzy, something starts, grows, and comes to a satisfying resolution. If this isn't adroit plot construction, I have no idea what else it could be.

5-0 out of 5 stars Mamet Has Fun
As a reviewer for Daily Variety for seven years, I came to enjoy the characters, ideas, and theatricality of David Mamet's plays that I saw and judged.I became a fan.As I came to write my own plays, I saw intimately that the root of character is through what they DO, yet the stage is made up mostly of what people say.Mamet is often praised for his dialogue, but his plays are active--his characters do things, including swearing, cheating, conniving, dreaming, and scheming. If you're an aspiring playwright or simply a fan of theatre, READ one of his plays and see how few stage directions he gives and how often the dialogue is interrupted, yet you get a strong picture of what's happening.Notice how much his characters do.Feel the subtext that emerges.His dramas are often known for their tension."Romance," a comedy, you might expect to be far different, but there's still plenty of tension.All his dramas have humor, and here there's just more--delightfully more.When I saw "Romance" at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, I laughed a lot and guessed how much fun he surely had writing it.There's even a spot where a character parodies Mamet's love for the F word--absolutely hilarious.At first I thought of "Romance" as Mamet Lite, but the play stayed with me, and I bought it to read.In it, he pushes the envelope of hyperbole and soars.Consider, too, what the title means to what you experience in the play.There's plenty to chew on.

4-0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare was a Jew!
I've been a big Mamet fanatic for quite some time now.(Ricky Jay, whom I used to work with--sort of--I mean our offices were next door to each other--but anyways--Ricky Jay once told me that he knew many people that knew a lot about Mamet, but I was almost freaky.)So, I was very worried about Mr. Mamet after the mess that is FAUSTUS.It appeared that Mamet got sick of people telling him what a wonderful ear for dialogue he has, or making jokes about his love of the "F" word (e.g., both Neil Simon and The Simpsons have satirized our man for this) and so he decided to start writing in this arrogant neo-Victorian manner to show the world that he knows far more big words than the rest of us.This style seemed to work well in BOSTON MARRIAGE and much of his prose, but FAUSTUS was just a disaster.(No wonder Jude Law, whom I believe asked him to write it, ended up turning it down and performing in the Marlowe version.)But the good news is that our old Mamet is back with ROMANCE.I'm only giving it four stars because it appears that Mamet has decided to stop caring about plots, but oh my word, what a juicy, profanity-filled joy this play is.I've seen it in both New York and L.A. and nearly peed myself both times. By the way, I know that Mamet has criticized people who supposedly love his plays but wish that they had plots, so I guess I'm amongst that crowd.But he's still my man, especially after this work. ... Read more

12. Woods, Lakeboat, Edmond
by David Mamet
Paperback: 304 Pages (1994-01-14)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$3.50
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Asin: 0802151094
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars RE: Edmond
Edmond is a real trip. Not exactly a pleasant trip, but definitely a walk on the wild side.

It's set in New York. As the play starts off, Edmond, a man in his mid thirties, goes to see a fortune teller who reads his palm and tells him, "You are not where you are belong..." In the next scene Edmond is at home with his wife. They have the following dialogue:
Edmond: Yes. Alright - I am going.
Wife: Will you bring me back some cigarettes?
Edmond: I'm not coming back.
Wife: What?
Edmond: I'm not coming back.(Pause.)
Wife: What do you mean?
Edmond: I'm going, and I'm not going to come back.
Wife: You're not ever coming back?
Edmond: No.

Just like that Edmond abandons his established life. He then goes to strip clubs, a whorehouse, he walks on the street by three card monte hustlers, he rides on the subway. He becomes agitated by the urban dissonance. He starts to argue with people. He gets in trouble with the law.

The play has an interesting style. It's fast paced - the whole thing is one act with 23 scenes. Some of the scenes are very short, less than half a page. Also, they're somewhat disconnected. One minute Edmond's in a pawnshop, the next, on the subway. It's surreal. I couldn't tell you how long the action takes place over.

I've got mixed feelings about most of Mamet's plays, but Edmond I've read several times. I love it's fast pace and it's bizarro quality.

4-0 out of 5 stars great book
woods is a wonderfull and exiting play, and Edmond is a facanatingone. Edmond has a rythem of modern play very much lke a movie.

4-0 out of 5 stars Edmond is Brilliant
Because of the sheer power of one of the plays contained within this book, I have given this collection 4 out of 5 possible stars.

Edmond is amazingly stark and real, and offers a complete reversal in character, and the last scene seems like an epiphony. This play is easily my favorite, and I have seen it performed in London by Kenneth Branag, it was most astonishing and brilliant. I have not read or seen either of the two other plays contained within theis volume, but I will say that Edmond is definitely a great reason to buy this book.

4-0 out of 5 stars three mamet plays who all share the weakness of modern men
the bool consists of three plays: Lakeboat- mamet's first play who tells the story of a boat crew who's one of his members is missing. throughout the play, rhe crew is exposed to its weaknesses and desperation, it's abitter-sweet play, but it lacks the surprise element that can be seen in"glengarry glen ross" etc. The woods- a stoory of an imossiblelove between an educated yet emotionally cold man and his needy girlfriend,it's a play that floats steadily untill the big burst in the end, forpatiant readers only! Edmond- a violent play about a buffled young man whodecides to make a journey in search of maening and ends up ruining his lifeas well as others, it's a merciless look on urban reality ... Read more

13. De-Mythologising Popular American Myths: Critical Reading of David Mamet's Plays
by Reza Yavarian
Paperback: 228 Pages (2010-01-26)
list price: US$14.49 -- used & new: US$14.45
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Asin: 1449036163
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14. Glengarry Glen Ross: A Play
by David Mamet
Paperback: 108 Pages (1994-01-11)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$6.98
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Asin: 0802130917
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Winner of the 1984 Pulitzer Prize, David Mamet’s scalding comedy is about small-time, cutthroat real estate salesmen trying to grind out a living by pushing plots of land on reluctant buyers in a never-ending scramble for their fair share of the American dream. Here is Mamet at his very best, writing with brutal power about the tough life of tough characters who cajole, connive, wheedle, and wheel and deal for a piece of the action—where closing a sale can mean a brand new Cadillac but losing one can mean losing it all. This masterpiece of American drama is now a major motion picture starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce, Ed Harris, and Kevin Spacey.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (24)

5-0 out of 5 stars Stunning observation of dialogue and human interaction
I had heard friends praise this man's work, but didn't quite expect this.

I love the study of human interaction and had heard that Mamet was a man who directed very precisely how he wished his actors to perform his material. As a musician in discussion with an actor friend, I compared his work to that of Ravel, whose almost 'dictator' approach works so well when performing his music. Other playwriters allowed the performer a lot more freedom and resembled musical composers such as Bach, who often didn't even specify the instrument for which their music was written.

The nuances in the dialogue are incredible, the scenes so clearly defined and the situations encapsulated with crystaline precision: the pleading of Levine in the first scene; the manipulation of Aaronow in the next scene; and the seduction of Lingk into signing the contract is a real tour-de-force - and this is only act one. Act two is the most insightful piece of writing I've found so far and left me with a feeling of awe. This guy seems to get into the characters and make them work with a god-like understanding of what makes them tick. This clarity, intense focus, insight and comprehension I felt I'd only rarely seen before seems to be on every page.

Book/film? I've not seen the film, but for study purposes possibly the book as this gives you every nuance Mamet intended in a form easier to study. I'm guessing the film will expand on this.

5-0 out of 5 stars As good in print as it is on the screen
Although I will always picture in my mind the absolutely stellar cast (Lemmon, Pacino, Harris, Arkin, Spacey, Baldwin, Pryce) from the 1992 New Line Cinema motion picture, I would like to imagine that the stage productions provided equal measures of vitality. After all, it is the words themselves which are important here. Thus, my 5-star review of Glengarry Glen Ross is equally appropriate for this, the original play. This trip through David Mamet's unique voice is very enjoyable, not least because the film stayed true to the original. (Mamet adapted his own work for the film.)

A few important differences are noted below.

* In the film, the end of Scene One, where Levine and Williamson take shelter in the car during a rainstorm, is very effective. The closed quarters highlight the desperation. In the play, their entire conversation takes place in the restaurant. Also, an early portion of the long conversation between Moss and Aaronow takes place in the coffee shop, while in the play, they are in the Chinese restaurant as well. Here, too, I think the settings in the film are better, as we see Aaronow being pursued from place to place. Glengarry Glen Ross shows us, after all, that it isn't only suckers who are targeted; the salesmen go after each other as well. [Note: one (ad-libbed?) improvement was Ed Harris' "The leads to Graff. Yes. I was saying--yeah. A guy could take--like anything else, it seams to me, that is negotiable, a guy could sell them."]

* Of course the absence of Alec Baldwin's character (named Blake, not that it is ever used in the film, other than in the credits) is notable. Mamet wrote in this role expressly for the film. Of somewhat less importance is the role of Larry Spannel which also does not appear in the original script.

* Act Two seems almost entirely identical, play vs. film. The most intriguing (and disturbing) difference seems to be with Roma's character at the very end. He becomes much less likable by attempting to cut in on Levine's commissions. Or is there something more to the story that I missed?

Fourteen bucks is a lot to pay for what is a very fast read, but then again I am not rating based on price, and in the end this is something you can enjoy frequently. I know I do.

(Winner of the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama)

5-0 out of 5 stars Brutal Salespeople, Superb Play
David Mamet is at his best with this Pulitzer-Prize winning play about cut-throat salesmen working on commission.From their Chicago office four men sell vacation and retirement land in places like Florida and Arizona.The land they sell may be decent, but their lack of ethics is eye opening.Operating on a simple code of sell, sell, sell, they will misrepresent, tell stories, massage egos, and do whatever else is needed to close that deal.The play covers the personal interplay between the four salesmen and John Williamson, their heartless company-man boss who has earned their contempt.The salesmen/characters are Richard Roma, a hotshot on a winning streak, bitter Dave Moss, who's anger limits his success, and George Aronow, who is too soft for this type of sales.The last is Shelly Levine, an aging has-been who knows he'll be fired if his sales numbers don't go back up.Levine reminds of Willy Loman (from Death of a Salesman), but he's neither suicidal nor delusional - merely desperate.All work under the stress of quota's, commissions, and a sales contest where first prize is a new Cadillac and last prize is you're fired.The personality dymanics of these bitter men moves the story, as does the fact that somebody burglarized the office to steal the new sales leads.

Mamet includes those wonderful speech patterns that include clipped lines, interruptions, plus unspoken thoughts and motives.Mixed in here are the anger, dishonesty, and a cut-throat attitude of the sales force.The play is short and fast-moving, and the superb 1992 film starring Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino added some scenes.Still, this is an excellent play, powerful and emotional.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Master at the Height of His Powers...
Like Pinter, Mamet is the master not of just the words but the spaces between them; shapes the silence that holds the words together; and reveals the true (subconscious) forces that grip his characters and drive them right over the cliff of their own greed. He is a direct descendant of Pinter and Beckett. A legend.

5-0 out of 5 stars Chicago Dog
There are only a few truly perfect things on this earth. A Chicago dog is one of them. There is nothing quite like it. This play is another little piece of perfection. Loved the movie, oh yes, but the play is just as good, which is a rare thing indeed. Often the movie version is superior to the original and vice versa. Here there is perfection on both sides. A glorious script is brought to the screen intact. No doubt much credit belongs to the director and cast, but I suspect that Mamet had something to do with it, too. It's hard not to love this sweet taste of poison. Levine is a character to adore and despise and then back into when he isn't looking. Wouldn't you just love to sleep with him, stab him and then leave him for dead? The writing is superb. Mamet's got the one-act tragedy down cold. Will he ever write a full-length play? ... Read more

15. A Whore's Profession: Notes and Essays.
by David Mamet
Paperback: 412 Pages (1994-06)
list price: US$31.00 -- used & new: US$17.38
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0571170765
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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This is the collected prose of one of America's most provocative playwrights. Mamet assesses himself as a writer and included in this volume are autobiographical vignettes from childhood and youth describing the gamut of human emotion. David Mamet is a controversial playwright as well as film director. He is the author of "American Buffalo", "Speed the Plow", "Glengarry Glen Ross" (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize), and most recently, "Oleanna". He has directed films such as "House of Games" and "Things Change". ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars A WHORE'S PROFESSION: A Whole Lot of Book
...The book is essentially a collection of notes and essays combining several of his earlier books into one volume. WRITING IN RESTAURANTS, SOME FREAKS, ON DIRECTING FILM, and THE CABIN are represented in their entirety.
As always with Mamet, you get his opinions loudly, clearly, and entertainingly. He is a very percise writer and often nostalgiac, often humourous. His observations on Life in the Theatre are world-weary and wise. Whether you agree with him or not (and I often don't) you have to admit that the man is not ever afraid to speak his mind, and moreover, back up his thoughts.
If it makes it's way back into print, A WHORE'S PROFESSION is an excellent addition to any Mamet fan's library. ... Read more

16. Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy
by Lawrence Kushner, David Mamet
Hardcover: 192 Pages (2003-08-26)
list price: US$21.00 -- used & new: US$10.44
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Asin: 0805242201
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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In the ancient Jewish practice of the kavannah (a meditation designed to focus one’s heart on its spiritual goal), Lawrence Kushner and David Mamet offer their own reactions to key verses from each week’s Torah portion, opening the biblical text to new layers of understanding.

Here is a fascinating glimpse into two great minds, as each author approaches the text from his unique perspective, each seeking an understanding of the Bible’s personalities and commandments, paradoxes and ambiguities. Kushner offers his words of Torah with a conversational enthusiasm that ranges from family dynamics to the Kabbalah; Mamet challenges the reader, often beginning his comment far afield—with Freud or the American judiciary—before returning to a text now wholly reinterpreted.

In the tradition of Israel as a people who wrestle with God, Kushner and Mamet grapple with the biblical text, succumbing neither to apologetics nor parochialism, asking questions without fear of the answers they may find. Over the course of a year of weekly readings, they comment on all aspects of the Bible: its richness of theme and language, its contradictions, its commandments, and its often unfathomable demands. If you are already familiar with the Bible, this book will draw you back to the text for a deeper look. If you have not yet explored the Bible in depth, Kushner and Mamet are guides of unparalleled wisdom and discernment. Five Cities of Refuge is easily accessible yet powerfully illuminating. Each week’s comments can be read in a few minutes, but they will give you something to think about all week long.

Lawrence Kushner teaches and writes as the Emanu-El Scholar at The Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco. He has taught at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City and served for twenty-eight years as rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Massachusetts. A frequent lecturer, he is also the author of more than a dozen books on Jewish spirituality and mysticism. He lives in San Francisco.

David Mamet is a Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright.He is the author of Glengarry Glen Ross, The Cryptogram, and Boston Marriage, among other plays. He has also published three novels and many screenplays, children's books, and essay collections. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Reflections and insights
This slim volume is the perfect tool for a Torah study class - or just for seeking out two different perspectives on the Torah. Brevity is not a problem here, but the book is not shallow. Kushner and Mamet are quite capable of making you think and making you want to dig deeper.

4-0 out of 5 stars Two Jews, Three Opinions
This book is the fruit of a "learning partnership" between Professor Lawrence Kushner and playwright David Mamet. Each man reflects independently on a brief reading from the Torah which they have studied together. This is not a call-and-response presentation. On some lessons, the men make similar observations. More often, however, they seem to approach the exact same texts from wildly different perspectives. If you're the kind of person who believes the Bible is a vital, living, ever-transforming thing, this is profoundly encouraging. The Bible is as fresh as the minds that open themselves to it. They are a deep well; it is impossible to drain these sacred texts dry.

The cities of refuge in the book of Numbers were those cities where people suspected of violent crimes could flee to be protected from the blood vengeance of the family and clan members of one's victims. The citizens of these towns guaranteed your safety until your case could be carefully deliberated by wiser and cooler heads. According to Numbers, there were to be six of these cities within the territory of Israel. For the authors, the five "cities" of refuge are the five books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). In these five masterworks, students can experience the patience and loving kindness of the Creator while reflecting on their blessings, mistakes, desires, and shortcomings. Safety, the authors seem to be saying, is a necessary prerequisite to exploring the fullness of God's mind and human potential. As Mamet says in his final contribution to this volume, "The 'struggle with the angel,' Judaism's struggle, is this: not that we will wrest more information from him--we will not--but that we learn to live with the information we possess--to cease seeking information and to pursue wisdom."

Some readers may find these devotions to be too slight (most are only one page long), but I found a slow careful reading of a single biblical text and Kushner's and Mamet's reflections on that text to be a great way to start the day. They are short enough to commit to, deep enough to enrich one's entire day. ... Read more

17. The Old Religion
by David Mamet
Paperback: 194 Pages (2002-05-01)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$0.94
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Asin: 1585671908
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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In 1913, a young woman was found murdered in the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta. The investigation focused on the Jewish manager of the factory, Leo Frank, who was subsequently forced to stand trial for the crime he didn't commit and railroaded to a life sentence in prison. Shortly after being incarcerated, he was abducted from his cell and lynched in front of a gleeful mob.

In vividly re-imagining these horrifying events, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Mamet inhabits the consciousness of the condemned man to create a novel whose every word seethes with anger over prejudice and injustice. The Old Religion is infused with the dynamic force and the remarkable ear that have made David Mamet one of the most acclaimed voices of our time. It stands beside To Kill a Mockingbird as a powerful exploration of justice, racism, and the "rush to judgment."Amazon.com Review
For his second novel, playwright David Mamet chose as asubject the 1914 trial of Leo Frank, a Jew living in Georgia who wasfalsely accused of the rape and murder of a young girl at the factoryhe managed. Convicted on the perjurious testimony of the actual killerand several of his coworkers, Frank was later abducted from prison bya mob and lynched. "They covered his head, and they ripped his pantsoff and castrated him and hung him from the tree. A photographer tooka picture showing the mob, one boy grinning at the camera, the bodyhanging, the legs covered by a blanket tied around the waist. Thephoto, reproduced as a postcard, was sold for many years in storesthroughout the South."

The events are straightforward, and Mamet leaves no doubt over thecourse of the story as to the final outcome. But he does not portraythe events so much as he probes the state of mind of Leo Frank, neverrelenting from the terse, stylized language familiar to fans of hisplays. At the beginning of The Old Religion, despite hisawareness of the growing anti-Semitism in the South (or perhapsbecause of it), Frank suppresses his heritage as much aspossible. Even at a seder, "he pronounced the word koshergingerly, as if to say, I don't disclaim that I have heard it, but Ido not wish to say it freely, as to arrogate it to myself on the mereprecedent of blood." But as the trial goes on, we are shown Frank'sgrowing realization that, although he has embraced the American way oflife, it will not embrace him in return. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

3-0 out of 5 stars The Old Soft Shoe
In The Old Religion, historical figure Leo Frank, a Jewish factory owner in the old American South falsely accused of rape and murder, then imprisoned and eventually lynched by an organised mob, is turned by Mamet into a religious philosopher, an all but obssessive turner over of truths and half truths, propositions and the voices within voices of a disputatious mind from a disputatious people. But the heart of it is still the same: "To be a man," the Rabbi said, was to behave as a man in that situation where there were neither the trappings nor the rewards of manhood: scorned, reviled, abandoned, humiliated, powerless, terrified, mocked. "Now be a man..." the Rabbi said."

And in The Edge, a movie by Mamet, the millionaire played by Anthony Hopkins is an obssessive learner and compiler of facts, a man detached from his emotions, who through the forces of a melodrama plot, (a plane goes down stranding him in the wilderness with his wife's lover, the fashion photographer Alec Baldwin who wants him dead) is forced to confront himself and, stripped to his essentials, survive. In a sense, The Edge is the opposite story to The Old Religion in that the former has as its central motif a canoe paddle on whose two sides a rabbit and a ravenous beast, I cannot quite recall what, co-exist. Why is the rabbit not afraid? "Because he knows he's smarter then the.." Fox, I believe the beast is. It is significant that the line, among the best in the film, is not quite memorable enough to hold the mind. And the central, memorable sequence of the film is millionaire and adulterous rival being forced to collaborate in killing a bear.That bear was more memorable than the characters or the dialogue. In The Old Religion the opposite moral is operative, Frank is in no useable way smarter than his employee Jim, who uses the white Southern mob's unwillingness to believe in the intelligence of a "nigro" to fool them and gets away with murder, dooming the outsider Jew. You cannot be smarter than the fox and disruptive nature, chaos; the forces of darkness cannot be conquered - you must only stand and face them as you may, that is the true heart of Mamet's reveries.

The trouble is that this does not always amount to a compelling fulcrum, in and of itself, it must accompany colour or is bland, a blank stare in the face of onrushing doom - Mamet's stoic glance in the face of the cancer look.

In The Old Religion, Frank's habits of dissecting, homelitically commenting on and generally discoursing throughout and over every event of his downward course lend the book the air of a series of absent minded sermons, underpinned with occasional colourful clues as to motive, projection through space and narrative to fate, the taste of life. As Mamet points out somewhere in his book of actors' sermons "True or False"- intentions are not interesting, a person's qualities are not interesting, only actions are interesting. Hence the only memorable thing about the Rabbi, a key figure of the last third of the book, is the way he lights a match, his way with a cigarette. This is actual character. Mamet doesn't give either Frank or the Rabbi or any of the other characters quite enough internal colour, a personal smell or feeling, tomake them anything - an actor could not successfully play them without addition and a reader cannot happily create them in the mind's eye because aside from the endless discourses- as Mamet's Frank asks himself at one point "what part of reason is not simply the recoil of fear?" - there is nothing much going on. The only thing which defines Frank's response in the face of the onrushing catastrophe is his reversion to the "Old Religion" of Judaism away from the "Old Religion" of the South, of America, of the belief in progress. This is not really, in itself, much that you can play. As Mamet the actor would put it: What's the objective? And it cannot really be said that Mamet the novelist has given the actor or reader much in the way of lines on a page to sustain the illusion of character.

At the novel's early parts, before chaos unfolds, one feels a little like the inhabitant of a Aharon Appelfeld novel, where bitter laughter and irony is beneath every casual detail of the lives of comfortable Jews on the lip on an abyss. And Mamet's skill is always wordily present - for probably two thirds of the novel he manages to keep you reading, keep you turning the pages, despite very little meat between his odd moments of concrete detail. This is no small skill. But his aesthetic position about acting is disproved in his own work, in this particular book. Not enough blood in these characters to sustain the book.

2-0 out of 5 stars Good storytelling, bad message
David Mamet is certainly an excellent story-teller and an accomplished writer. No one can take that away from him.

But this story - which in Mamet's mind is intended to combat bigotry and racism toward Jews - actually enhances bigotry and racism toward other groups that are being marginalized in current American society.

Mamet gives us a story where an innocent Jewish man is mistakenly convicted of rape and suffers a harrowing fate at the hands of a lynch mob. Mamet tells us that this happened because of anti-Semitism. Fair enough.

Mamet's character then goes on to deliver a two-fisted verbal assualt on Christians of the "evangelical" variety ("they say they've been saved. Saved from what?"), who he portrays as evil, stupid, and lazy. (They bask in "inherited glory," although they've contributed nothing to society, "invented no vaccines," as Mamet puts it.)

First of all, there is no evidence that the historical killers in this case were "evangelical Christians." It's a big stretch to say that just because a murder occurred in the south, that it was committed by Bible-thumping Southern Baptists.

Second, "evangelical Christians" comprise about 7 to 10 percent of the current American population (a number that is consistently revealed in polls by Gallup, Barna, Smith, etc.). That's about the same as the number of Jews and Muslims in America combined. They are consistently villified as "right-wingers" who want to take over the government, impose a theocracy, and kill homosexuals - none of which is true. (The typical evangelical is a moderate Republican of the John McCain variety.) Aside from the rather sympathetic portrayal of Ned Flanders on the Simpsons, the entire media establishment is arrayed against this one segment of our population. The lies and stereotypes directed against these people are as pernicious and hateful as those directed against the Jews in Nazi Germany. (The Jews, too, were out to take over society, according to the Third Reich.) Mamet's hateful scree against people "who say they've been saved" is just fuel for the fire. It takes a feeble-minded coward to throw himself wholeheartedly into society's accepted mode of bigotry, and well, Mamet lives up.

Third, evangelicals are hardly stupid people who bask in "inherited glory" from the Pilgrim days. Evangelical accomplishments are many - from revolutionizing the field of linguistics (Kenneth Pike) and Philosophy (Alvin Plantiga), to improving the lives of millions of Latin Americans after the abysmal failure of Roman Catholicism to confront oppression and injustice, to helping freedom of religion and freedom of speech spread throughout the globe, Evangelicals have contributed much to modern society. Of course, they haven't contributed much to the Entertainment industry, and perhaps that's the only industry Mamet cares about.

3-0 out of 5 stars interesting, but not exceptional
I love David Mamet's plays (recently, I laughed my way through the movie adaptation of State and Main), but this novel was disappointing.The event itself (described on the book jacket) is much more interesting than a fragmented interior monlogue by a less-than-fascinating protagonist.The idea invoked The Stranger, but unlike Camus who does a brilliant job, Mamet is much less brilliant.This read more like a literary experiment in a writing workshop than a polished piece by Mamet. If you want to read the master of this genre, stick to Camus.

3-0 out of 5 stars Nearly excellent but a miss
This book is an exploration of the Leo Frank case who in 1914 in Georgia was falsely convicted of rape/murder and was lynched for the crime; the tale is told through Frank's internal musings.In writing the internaldialogues, and yes they are dia- or trialogues not monologues, Mamet showshis skill as a playwright - playwrights must tell their tale through thespeech of the cast.

However, in the early chapters of the book it issometimes difficult to determine who is speaking.And Frank's socialrelationships come across as one-dimensional as Mamet focuses on therelationships necessary to explain this miscarriage of justice.

The novelis good enough to recommend to individuals interested in prejudice,miscarriages of justuce etc. - but it doesn't deserve an unqualifiedrecommendation.

4-0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, but worthwhile
Being very familiar with the Leo Frank case and the various forms of media that have evolved concerning it (novels, plays, movies, musicals...etc.)I was anxious to see what slant Mamet would take on this most intriguing truestory.As usual, Mamet offers a bizarre, disturbing and profoundlyintellectual work that provides a whole new look at Leo Frank. Instead offocusing in on the trial or events surrounding it...Mamet takes us on ajourney inside Frank's head...we see the mind of a man displaced; trying tomake peace with himself, his world and his God.The result is not apage-turner, not a heartfelt and moving account of a man accused, butrather a facsinating examination of the human brain and it's inexplicableway of relating ideas.A worthwhile read for anyone familiar with theFrank case...but a little too heavyand vague for those who are not. ... Read more

18. Henrietta
by David Mamet
Hardcover: 32 Pages (1999-11-09)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$2.16
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0618004165
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
The acclaimed dramatist who has created some of the most memorable and original films and plays of the past three decades tells a story unlike any other to flow from his prolific pen, introducing a remarkable heroine, Henrietta. A precocious pig pursuing the very American dream of attending Cambridge's most esteemed law school, Henrietta must overcome the pride and prejudices of others to prove her worth and follow the noble calling in her heart. Brought to life by Elizabeth Dahlie's heartwarming illustrations and suffused with local Cambridge color, David Mamet's delighful fable of virtue and integrity triumphant is subtle, playful, and eccentric, tinged with satire and told with flair. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Mamet is a truely beautiful writer
How can you not be appealed when you read a literate children's book from a man who's works are very testosterone-laden and profanity filled? But his gift fills the pages with a story of a pig who overcomes adversity and discrimination to become a lawyer. I buy this gift for friends who are in law school to put smiles on their faces.

5-0 out of 5 stars Intelligent Pig Perseveres
Henrietta is an endearing story of a young pig who wants an education very badly.She specifically wants to study law at a good institution. In her pursuit of learning, she attempts to use libraries and tries to attendlectures, but is often thrown out of those places of discovery because,after all, she is just a pig. This is a new look at prejudice!

This storyis presented as a story for children and I really liked the fact that thevocabulary chosen by David Mamet is not the usual fare. Some of the wordswill need an explanation which adds another dimension to the book. Thelittle fable is greatly enhanced by the illustrations of Elizabeth Dahliewho makes Henrietta real and shows how she looks in good times and in bad.One drawing in particular made me laugh out loud and the image has remainedin my mind. The book has general appeal and could even be a "coffeetable" book.

4-0 out of 5 stars the first henrietta review
Henrietta is a good example of the saying, "don't judge a book by it's cover", because I think this book is an adult book in a children's storybook format. The story of Henrietta is about an intelligent pig who lives in Cape Cod and dreams of becoming a lawyer andgoing through college at Harvard Law School. When she finallybecomes old enough to go to college, she is rejected simply because of thefact that she is a pig. Time passes, and Henrietta is found wanderingaround the city with nowhere to go.She has been unable to find lodging,and has been forced to sleep on the streets. One day, Henrietta waswandering about the city as usual, when she found an old man searching forhis glasses under a park bench.Henrietta decided to help the poor manfind his glasses. Even though the glasses remained unfound, theman thanked Henrietta for her kindness and took her to his house.I willnot say the rest because it will spoil the ending. I thought that thisbook was very unique and that, as I said before, this book is an adult'sbook in a storybook format. I liked the fact that this book is more like anadult's book because some children's books, in my opinion, can be slightlyirritating. I really enjoyed the moral (or what I think the moral is).The moral that I perceived was: believe in yourself. This moral is shownwhen Henrietta tries to enter Harvard. I think that people should readthis book and see for themselves that this is much more than a children'sbook. ... Read more

19. Keep Your Pantheon
by David Mamet
Paperback: 52 Pages (2009-03-03)
list price: US$8.95 -- used & new: US$5.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0573663211
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11m / ComedyIn Keep Your Pantheon, an impoverished acting company on the edge of eviction is offered a lucrative engagement. But through a series of riotous mishaps, the troupe finds its problems have actually multiplied, and that they are about to learn a new meaning for the term "dying on stage." ... Read more

20. The Chinaman: Poems
by David Mamet
Hardcover: 72 Pages (1999-04-01)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$2.25
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0879518979
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (1)

3-0 out of 5 stars Great playwrite yes; great poet no
I have enjoyed several of Mamet's prose works and plays finding him very talented both in content and use of language.As I began The Chinaman, I was dissapointed in him as a poet.Several poems left me feeling like an outsider who had missed the point of some important reference or allusion.However, when I reached "The Black Raven" my evaluation of Mamet as a poet changed dramatically. In this poem his interweaving of repeating sounds and images echo a sestina or Edith Sitwell or William Ruddy.The effect is mesmerizing and the form unique. "Billy the Weazel" is a successful poem with techniques reminding the reader of William Carlos Williams or Robert Creeley. "The Triumph of Gravity" invokes the beat aesthetic.

While Mamet has not developed a consistent "Mamet style," he has chosen the style well for what he wishes to say. A few of his poems are excellent, several well done, and a few use references that exclude many readers. Still its worth picking up a remaindered or used copy. ... Read more

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