If you’re among those who think David Mamet is America’s most original living playwright, this short entertaining book of speeches and essays is one you must buy – if only to get a closer look into the mind of the author of such dark, fiercely intelligent plays as American Buffalo and Glengarry Glenn Ross.
It’s a pity this Chicago-born dramatist is not better known in Britain. Although the spare, aggressive language and sly dramatic impact of his plays and film scripts (The Untouchables and House of Games) have been widely praised, the average London theatregoer is barely aware of him. Not even the Pulitzer-prize-winning Glengarry Glenn Ross – a devastating portrayal of socially approved, exquisitely rationalised evil – which was performed at the National and later the Mermaid, has earned him the recognition that has been accorded his closest contemporary American rival, Sam Shepard.
But then, Mamet is neither handsome nor an actor and has little interest in sexual perversity. His speciality is the common man, common urban evil that infiltrates almost everyone’s life. Perhaps one reason Shepard is more popular is that his well-titillated audiences are able to maintain a safe, self-approving distance from the deranged, inarticulate, rural monsters that inhabit such works as Buried Child (also a Pulitzer Prize winner) and Paris, Texas. Whereas Mamet’s monsters are more apt to resemble people we know: the smiling colleague in the next office, a phone call away – or lurking somewhere inside of us– who inevitably counsels us to choose the greater of the two evils because that’s where the money is.
The language in Mamet’s essays is not as taut and profane as in his theatrical works, but just as succinct and assertive. He is not a fence-sitter. His opinions are extreme and never ambiguous. He doesn’t just dislike Disneyland; he abhors it, sees it as ‘a triumph in crowd control’