Mamet, David 1947- (David Alan Mamet)
Mamet, David 1947- (David Alan Mamet)
Surname is pronounced "Mam-et"; born November 30, 1947, in Chicago IL; son of Bernard Morris (an attorney) and Lenore June (a teacher) Mamet; married Lindsay Crouse (an actress), December 21, 1977 (divorced); married Rebecca Pidgeon (an actress), 1991; children: Willa, Zosia, Clara. Education: Attended Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater, 1968-69; Goddard College, B.A., 1969. Politics: "The last refuge of the unimaginative." Religion: "The second-to-last."
Agent—Howard Rosenstone, Rosenstone/Wender, 3 E. 48th St., New York, NY 10017.
Playwright, screenwriter, director, and producer. Marlboro College, special lecturer in drama, 1970. St. Nicholas Theater Company, Chicago, IL, founder, 1973, artistic director, 1973-76, member of board of directors, beginning 1973; Goodman Theater, Chicago, associate artistic director, 1978-79. Goddard College, artist-in-residence in drama, 1971-73; Illinois Arts Council, faculty member, 1974; University of Chicago, visiting lecturer in drama, 1975-76, 1979; Yale University, School of Drama, teaching fellow, 1976-77; New York University, guest lecturer, 1981; Columbia University, associate professor of film, 1988. Producer of motion pictures, including Lip Service, 1988, Hoffa, 1992, and A Life in the Theatre, 1993. Actor in motion pictures, including Black Widow, 1986, and The Water Engine, 1992. Directed Ricky Jay: On the Stem, 2002, and "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants." Has also worked in a canning plant, a truck factory, at a real estate agency, and as a window washer, office cleaner, and taxi driver. Atlantic Theater Company, chairman of the board.
Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild of America, Actors Equity Association, PEN, United Steelworkers of America, Randolph A. Hollister Association.
Joseph Jefferson Award, 1975, for Sexual Perversity in Chicago, and 1976, for American Buffalo; Obie Awards, Village Voice, for best new American play, 1976, for Sexual Perversity in Chicago and American Buffalo, for best American play, 1983, for Edmond, and for best play, 1995, for The Cryptogram; Children's Theater grant, New York State Council on the Arts, 1976; Rockefeller grant, 1976; Columbia Broadcasting System fellowship in creative writing, 1976; New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best American play, 1977, for American Buffalo, and 1984, for Glengarry Glen Ross; Outer Critics Circle Award, 1978, for contributions to the American theater; Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1983, for The Verdict, and 1997, for Wag the Dog; Society for West End Theatre Award, 1983; Pulitzer Prize for drama, Joseph Dintenfass Award, Elizabeth Hull-Warriner Award from Dramatists Guild, Antoinette Perry ("Tony") Award nomination from American Theater Wing, for best play, all 1984, all for Glengarry Glen Ross; Tony Award nomination for best reproduction of a play, 1984, for American Buffalo; Tony Award for best play, 1988, for Speed-the-Plow; American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, 1986; Golden Globe Award nomination for best screenplay, 1988, for House of Games; Writers Guild Award nomination for best screenplay based on material from another medium, 1988, for The Untouchables.
Lakeboat (one-act; produced in Marlboro, VT, 1970; revised version produced in Milwaukee, WI, 1980), Grove (New York, NY), 1981.
Duck Variations (one-act; produced in Plainfield, VT, 1972; produced Off-Off-Broadway, 1975), published in Sexual Perversity in Chicago and Duck Variations: Two Plays, Grove (New York, NY), 1978.
Sexual Perversity in Chicago (one-act; produced in Chicago, 1974; produced Off-Off-Broadway, 1975), published in Sexual Perversity in Chicago and Duck Variations: Two Plays, Grove (New York, NY), 1978.
Squirrels (one-act), produced in Chicago, IL, 1974.
The Poet and the Rent: A Play for Kids from Seven to 8:15 (produced in Chicago, IL, 1974), published in Three Children's Plays, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1986.
American Buffalo (two-act; produced in Chicago, IL, 1975; produced on Broadway, 1977), Grove (New York, NY), 1977.
Reunion (one-act; produced with Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Louisville, KY, 1976; produced Off-Broadway with Dark Pony and The Sanctity of Marriage, 1979), published in Reunion and Dark Pony: Two Plays, Grove (New York, NY), 1979, also published in Reunion, Dark Pony, and The Sanctity of Marriage: Three Plays, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1982.
Dark Pony (one-act; produced with Reunion, New Haven, CT, 1977; produced Off-Broadway with Reunion and The Sanctity of Marriage, 1979), published in Reunion and Dark Pony: Two Plays, Grove (New York, NY), 1979, also published in Reunion, Dark Pony, and The Sanctity of Marriage: Three Plays, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1982.
All Men Are Whores (produced in New Haven, CT, 1977), published in Short Plays and Monologues, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1981.
A Life in the Theatre (one-act; produced in Chicago, IL, 1977; produced Off-Broadway, 1977), Grove (New York, NY), 1978.
The Revenge of the Space Pandas; or, Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock (produced in Queens, NY, 1977), Sergel (Chicago, IL), 1978.
(And director) The Woods (two-act; produced in Chicago, IL, 1977; produced Off-Broadway, 1979), Grove (New York, NY), 1979.
The Water Engine: An American Fable (two-act; produced as a radio play on the program Earplay, Minnesota Public Radio, 1977, stage adaptation produced in Chicago, 1977, produced Off-Broadway, 1977), published in The Water Engine: An American Fable and Mr. Happiness: Two Plays, Grove (New York, NY), 1978.
Mr. Happiness (produced with The Water Engine, on Broadway, 1978), published in The Water Engine: An American Fable and Mr. Happiness: Two Plays, Grove (New York, NY), 1978.
Lone Canoe; or, The Explorer (musical), music and lyrics by Alaric Jans, produced in Chicago, IL, 1979.
The Sanctity of Marriage (one-act; produced Off-Broadway with Reunion and Dark Pony, 1979), published in Reunion, Dark Pony, and The Sanctity of Marriage: Three Plays, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1982.
Shoeshine (one-act; produced Off-Off-Broadway, 1979), in Short Plays and Monologues, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1981.
Short Plays and Monologues, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1981.
A Sermon (one-act), produced Off-Off-Broadway, 1981.
Donny March, produced 1981.
Edmond (also see below; produced in Chicago, IL, 1982; produced Off-Broadway, 1982), Grove (New York, NY), 1983.
The Disappearance of the Jews (one-act), produced in Chicago, IL, 1983.
The Dog, produced 1983.
Film Crew, produced 1983.
4 A.M., produced 1983.
Glengarry Glen Ross (two-act; produced on London's West End, 1983; produced on Broadway, 1984), Grove (New York, NY), 1984.
Five Unrelated Pieces (contains Two Conversations, Two Scenes, and Yes, but So What; produced Off-Off-Broadway, 1983), published in A Collection of Dramatic Sketches and Monologues, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1985.
Litko (produced in New York, NY, 1984), published in Short Plays and Monologues, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1981.
Vermont Sketches (contains Pint's a Pound the World Around, Deer Dogs, Conversations with the Spirit World, and Dowsing; produced in New York, NY, 1984), published in A Collection of Dramatic Sketches and Monologues, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1985.
The Shawl [and] Prairie du Chien (one-act plays; produced at Lincoln Center, New York, NY, 1985), Grove (New York, NY), 1985.
A Collection of Dramatic Sketches and Monologues, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1985.
Vint (one-act; based on Anton Chekov's short story; produced in New York, NY, with six other one-act plays based on Chekov's short works, under the collective title Orchards, 1985), published in Orchards, Grove (New York, NY), 1986.
(Adaptor) Anton Chekov, The Cherry Orchard (produced at Goodman Theatre, 1985), Grove (New York, NY), 1987.
Three Children's Plays (contains The Poet and the Rent: A Play for Kids from Seven to 8:15, The Revenge of the Space Pandas; or, Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock, and The Frog Prince), Grove (New York, NY), 1986.
The Woods, Lakeboat, Edmond, Grove (New York, NY), 1987.
Speed-the-Plow (produced on Broadway, 1988), Grove (New York, NY), 1988.
Where Were You When It Went Down?, produced in New York, NY, 1988.
(Adaptor and editor) Anton Chekov, Uncle Vanya, Grove (New York, NY), 1989.
Goldberg Street (short plays and monologues), Grove (New York, NY), 1989.
Bobby Gould in Hell, produced with The Devil and Billy Markham by Shel Silverstein, New York, NY, 1989.
Five Television Plays: A Waitress in Yellowstone; Bradford; The Museum of Science and Industry Story; A Wasted Weekend; We Will Take You There, Grove (New York, NY), 1990.
Oleanna (also see below; produced 1991), Pantheon (New York, NY), 1992, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1993.
(Adaptor) Anton Chekov, The Three Sisters: A Play, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1992.
A Life with No Joy in It, and Other Plays and Pieces (contains Almost Done, Monologue, Two Enthusiasts, Sunday Afternoon, The Joke Code, A Scene, Fish, A Perfect Mermaid, Dodge, L.A. Sketches, A Life with No Joy in It, Joseph Dintenfass, and No One Will Be Immune), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1994.
Plays—One (collection; includes Duck Variations, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Squirrels, American Buffalo, The Water Engine, and Mr. Happiness), Methuen (London, England), 1994.
(And director) The Cryptogram (also see below; produced in London, 1994; produced Off-Broadway, 1995), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1995, Vintage (New York, NY), 1995.
The Old Neighborhood: Three Plays (also see below; contains The Disappearance of the Jews, Jolly, and Deeny), Vintage (New York, NY), 1998.
Boston Marriage (produced at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, 1999, produced at Joseph Papp Public Theater, 2002), Vintage (New York, NY), 2002.
David Mamet Plays: 4 (includes The Cryptogram, Oleanna, and The Old Neighborhood), Methuen (London, England), 2002.
Dr. Faustus: A Play, Vintage (New York, NY), 2004.
Romance, Vintage (New York, NY), 2005.
(Adapter) Harley Granville Barker, The Voysey Inheritance, Vintage (New York, NY), 2005.
Also author of No One Will Be Immune and Other Plays and Pieces and Oh Hell.
(Adapter) The Postman Always Rings Twice (based on the novel by James M. Cain), Paramount, 1981.
(Adapter) The Verdict (based on the novel by Barry Reed), Columbia, 1982.
(And director) House of Games (based on a story by Mamet, Orion Pictures, 1987), Grove (New York, NY), 1987.
The Untouchables (based on the television series), Paramount, 1987.
(With Shel Silverstein; and director) Things Change (Columbia Pictures, 1988), Grove (New York, NY), 1988.
We're No Angels (based on the 1955 film of the same name; Paramount, 1989), Grove (New York, NY), 1990.
(And director) Homicide (Columbia, 1991), Grove (New York, NY), 1992.
Glengarry Glen Ross (based on Mamet's play of the same title), New Line Cinema, 1992.
The Water Engine (teleplay; based on Mamet's play of the same title), Amblin Television, 1992.
Hoffa, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1992.
Texan (film short), Chanticleer Films, 1994.
(And director) Oleanna (based on Mamet's play of the same title), Samuel Goldwyn, 1994.
(Adapter) Vanya on 42nd Street (based on the play Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov), Film Four International, 1994.
American Buffalo (based on Mamet's play of the same title), Samuel Goldwyn, 1996.
(And director) The Spanish Prisoner, Sweetland Films, 1997, published in The Spanish Prisoner and The Winslow Boy: Two Screenplays, Vintage (New York, NY), 1999.
The Edge, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1997.
(Adapter) Wag the Dog (based on the novel American Hero by Larry Beinhart), New Line Cinema, 1997.
Lansky, HBO, 1998.
(And director) State and Main, Fine Line Pictures, 2000.
Lakeboat, Oregon Trail Films, 2000.
Whistle, Geisler-Roberdeau, 2000.
(Adapter) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson), 2000.
(Adapter, with Steven Zaillian) Hannibal (based on the novel by Thomas Harris), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2001.
(And director) Heist, Morgan Creek Productions, 2001.
Spartan, Warner Bros., 2004.
Edmond (based on Mamet's play of the same title), First Independent Pictures, 2006.
Also author of A Life in the Theatre, based on Mamet's play of the same title; and episodes of the television series Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1987, and L.A. Law, NBC.
The Village, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1994.
The Old Religion (historical fiction), Free Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Bar Mitzvah, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1999.
The Chinaman, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1999.
Henrietta, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 1999.
Jafsie and John Henry, Free Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Wilson: A Consideration of the Sources, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 2001.
Warm and Cold (picture book), illustrations by Donald Sultan, Solo Press (New York, NY), 1984.
(With wife, Lindsay Crouse) The Owl, Kipling Press (New York, NY), 1987.
Passover (picture book), illustrated by Michael McCurdy, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.
The Duck and the Goat (picture book), illustrated by Maya Kennedy, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Writing in Restaurants (essays, speeches, and articles; also see below), Penguin (New York, NY), 1987.
Some Freaks (essays), Viking (New York, NY), 1989.
(With Donald Sultan and Ricky Jay) Donald Sultan: Playing Cards, edited by Edit deAk, Kyoto Shoin (Kyoto, Japan), 1989.
The Hero Pony: Poems, Grove Weidenfeld (New York, NY), 1990.
On Directing Film (also see below), Viking (New York, NY), 1992.
The Cabin: Reminiscence and Diversions (also see below), Random House (New York, NY), 1992.
A Whore's Profession: Notes and Essays (includes Writing in Restaurants, Some Freaks, On Directing Film, and The Cabin), Faber (New York, NY), 1994.
Make-Believe Town: Essays and Remembrances, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996.
True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor (essays), Pantheon (New York, NY), 1997.
Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama (part of the "Columbia Lectures on American Culture" series), Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1998.
On Acting, Viking (New York, NY), 1999.
South of the Northeast Kingdom, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2002.
(With Lawrence Kushner) Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business, Pantheon (New York, NY), 2006.
The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews, Schocken (New York, NY), 2006.
Also author of foreword, River Run Cookbook: Southern Comfort from Vermont, by Jimmy Kennedy, Maya Kennedy, and Marialisa Calta, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001. Contributor to Donald Sultan: In the Still-life Tradition, with Steven Henry Madoff, 1999. Contributing editor, Oui, 1975-76.
The film About Last Night …, released by Tri-Star Pictures in 1986, was based on Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago.
David Mamet has acquired a great deal of critical recognition for his plays, each one a microcosmic view of the American experience. Since 1976, Mamet's plays have been widely produced in regional theaters and in New York City. One of Mamet's most successful plays, Glengarry Glen Ross, earned the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best American play and the Pulitzer Prize in drama. Critics have also praised Mamet's screenwriting; he received Academy Award nominations for best adapted screenplay for The Verdict in 1983, and for Wag the Dog in 1997.
In his personal and creative life, Mamet has resisted the lure of Broadway, its establishment, and its formulas for success. He was born and raised in Chicago, the son of a labor lawyer. His parents divorced while Mamet and his sisters were young. The Windy City serves not only as inspiration for much of his work, but it has also provided an accepting audience for Mamet's brand of drama. This was especially true in the early days of his career, when he worked nights as a busboy at The Second City and spent his days with the theater crowd and writing his plays. "Regional theaters are where the life is," he told Robin Reeves in Us. "They're the only new force in American theater since the 30s." Yet, despite Mamet's seeming indifference to Broadway and the fact that the language and subject matter of his plays make them of questionable commercial value, several of his plays have been featured on Broadway.
The first of Mamet's plays to be commercially produced were Sexual Perversity in Chicago and Duck Variations. The former portrays the failed love affair between a young man and woman, each trying to leave behind a relationship with a homosexual roommate. The dialogue between the lovers and their same-sex roommates reveals how each gender can brutally characterize the other. New Yorker reviewer Edith Oliver maintained that "the piece is written with grace," and found it "one of the saddest comedies I can remember." In Duck Variations, two old Jewish men sit on a bench in Chicago looking out on Lake Michigan. Their observa- tion of the nearby ducks leads them into discussions of several topics. "There is a marvelous ring of truth in the meandering, speculative talk of these old men," maintained Oliver, "the comic, obsessive talk of men who spend most of their time alone, nurturing and indulging their preposterous notions." Duck Variations reveals, according to Oliver, that Mamet is an "original writer, who cherishes words and, on the evidence at hand, cherishes character even more."
Mamet emerged as a nationally acclaimed playwright with his 1975 two-act American Buffalo. Set in a junk shop, the play features the shop's owner, an employee, and a friend engaged in plotting a theft; they hope to steal the coin collection of a customer who, earlier in the week, had bought an old nickel at the shop. When the employee fails to tail the mark to his home, the plot falls into disarray. Although little takes place, Oliver commented in the New Yorker: "What makes [the play] fascinating are its characters and the sudden spurts of feeling and shifts of mood—the mounting tension under the seemingly aimless surface, which gives the play its momentum." American Buffalo confirmed Mamet's standing as a language playwright. As Frank Rich of the New York Times remarked: "Working with the tiniest imaginable vocabulary … Mamet creates a subterranean world with its own nonliterate comic beat, life-and-death struggles, pathos and even affection."
While American Buffalo received a Tony nomination, Mamet's Speed-the-Plow won for best play. In this two-act comedy, the author lampoons Hollywood. Two Hollywood studio producers, Bobby Gould and Charlie Fox, plan to make a prison film they feel sure is going to be a blockbuster, despite being an artless piece of drivel, because a huge star has committed to the project. Another film under consideration is an adaptation of an artistically accomplished—but cinematically difficult to produce—apocalyptic tale called The Bridge. This other project is championed by the naive Karen, a temp hired by Gould, who actually begins to persuade him that this film could create in him a commitment to art over greed. Through these characters, Mamet comments humorously on the decrepit state of Hollywood studios. Speed-the-Plow "contains everything anyone could want in a comedy: copious laughs; a suspenseful plot; a significant moral question at its core; and brevity," asserted Daily Variety critic Bob Verni, while Matt Wolf averred in Variety that this work is "one of [Mamet's] finest."
In 1979 Mamet was given his first opportunity to write a screenplay, working on the screenplay for the 1981 film version of James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. This was followed in 1982 with Mamet's film The Verdict. The film stars Paul Newman as a washed-up lawyer caught in a personal, legal, and moral battle. "Except for a few lapses of logic and some melodramatic moments in the courtroom," proclaimed a People reviewer, "[this] script from Barry Reed's novel is unusually incisive."
After writing The Verdict Mamet began working on his next play, Glengarry Glen Ross. Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play is set in and around a Chicago real estate office where agents are embroiled in a competition to sell the most parcels in the Florida developments Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms. As in Mamet's earlier plays, the characters and their language are very important to Glengarry Glen Ross. In the Nation, Stephen Harvey commented on Mamet's ability to create characters who take on a life of their own within the framework of the play: In the story "he adjusts his angle of vision to suit the contours of his characters, rather than using them to illustrate an idea." Mamet prefers not to explain too much about a character, believing that mysterious people are more intriguing to audiences. The playwright uses language in a similar manner. Harvey noted: "The pungency of Glengarry's language comes from economy: if these characters have fifty-word vocabularies, Mamet makes sure that every monosyllable counts." In the New York Times Magazine, Richard Eder remarked: "From the beginning, Mr. Mamet's most notable and noticeable quality was his extraordinary use of speech. He concentrated not upon cultivated expression but upon that apparent wasteland of middle American speech. It was the language of the secretary, the salesman, the file clerk, the telephone lineman, the small-time crook, the semiliterate college kid. It was grotesquely realistic."
The Cryptogram, Mamet's 1994 play, "dramatizes a child's emotional abuse in a way that no other American play has ever attempted: from the child's point of view," according to New Yorker critic John Lahr. The playwright draws on his personal experiences of violent outbreaks, mistrust, and betrayal that he encountered in his own family, but the play blurs such autobiographical elements between its author's fictions. Taking place in Chicago over the span of a single month during the late 1950s, the play's main character, ten-year-old John, is trying to make sense of the double message dispensed by his parents and family friends: lies and unkept promises are commonplace, yet he is expected to trust those who deceive him. "People may or may not say what they mean," Mamet explained to Lahr, "but they always say something designed to get what they want." Characteristically, language plays an important role in The Cryptogram; as its author noted: "The language of love is … fairly limited. ‘You're beautiful,’ ‘I need you,’ ‘I love you,’ ‘I want you.’ Love expresses itself, so it doesn't need a lot of words. On the other hand, aggression has an unlimited vocabulary."
New York Times reviewer Vincent Canby found much to praise about The Cryptogram. Calling the play "a horror story that also appears to be one of Mr. Mamet's most personal plays," Canby added: "It's not about the sort of physical abuse we see in television docudramas, but about the high cost of the emotional games played in what are otherwise considered to be fairly well-adjusted families." The Cryptogram received the Obie Award from the Village Voice for best play in 1995.
In 1994, on the heels of The Cryptogram, Mamet published his first novel, The Village. Taking place in a small, once-thriving town in New England, the novel reveals the emotional complexity of the lives of its characters. From Dick, the hardware-store owner fighting to stay in business, Manis, a local prostitute, and especially Henry, an "outsider" retired and escaping a failed marriage who wants to recapture the macho lifestyle of a century ago, Mamet captures the grim underside of small-town life. While reviewers noted that the novel's characters and central idea are well conceived, the novel's dialogue caused some critics to water down their enthusiasm for the book. James McManus contended in the New York Times Book Review that, "because of the novel's design and mechanical problems, the potency of [some] scenes tends not to accumulate. For a playwright of such muscular succinctness, Mr. Mamet has a narrative prose that turns out to be weirdly precious."
In addition to plays and screenplays, Mamet has published several collections of essays, including Writing in Restaurants, Some Freaks, On Directing Film, The Cabin, and Make-Believe Town: Essays and Remembrances, the first four volumes later collected as A Whore's Profession: Notes and Essays. These revealing collections are packed with Mamet's fascinating thoughts, opinions, recollections, musings, and reports on a variety of topics such as friendship, religion, politics, morals, society, and of course, the American theater. "The thirty pieces collected in David Mamet's first book of essays contain everything from random thoughts to firmly held convictions," stated Richard Christiansen in his review of Writing in Restaurants for Chicago's Tribune Books, "but they all exhibit the author's singular insights and moral bearing." Christiansen pointed out that "many of the essays have to do with drama, naturally, but whether he is talking to a group of critics or to fellow workers in the theater, Mamet is always urging his audience to go beyond craft and into a proud, dignified, loving commitment to their art and to the people with whom they work."
The Cabin, published in 1992, contains twenty essays that reflect their author's macho concerns—guns, cigars, beautiful women—as well as his life as a writer. The work's structure was characterized by Los Angeles Times Book Review critic Charles Solomon as "a succession of scenes illuminated by an erratic strobe light: A single moment appears in harsh focus, then vanishes." We follow the author from his tumultuous childhood in "The Rake" to a description of his New Hampshire haven where he does his writing in the title essay. The two dozen essays in Make-Believe Town recall Mamet's love of the theater and his respect for his Jewish heritage and introduce those "appalled" by the language of his stage plays to "Mamet the thoughtful learner, teacher, the friend, the literary critic, the hunger-nature writer, the culture, press and film critic, the political commentator, the moralist and, most delightfully, the memoirist," according to Tribune Books critic John D. Callaway.
With his play Boston Marriage, Mamet departed from his more well-known use of tough male characters to portray an elegant pair of Victorian lesbians. In this comedy of manners, Anna has become the mistress of a wealthy married man in order to supplement her income, and Claire has fallen in love with a younger woman. When that young woman wonders how Anna has acquired her mother's heirloom necklace, both affairs are endangered, leading the two women to concoct a complicated scheme to get themselves out of trouble. As a reviewer remarked in Curtain Up, this play, rather than being a radical departure for Mamet, "is in fact just another example of his versatility."
In 2001, Mamet launched two major projects. The first was a new novel, Wilson: A Consideration of Sources, which examines the impact of the Internet on society. Set far in the future, Wilson introduces a society that has placed all information in books and paper archives on the Internet, destroying the original sources. When the Internet crashes, the only remaining source of information is the hard drive of Mrs. Wilson's computer. Mamet's book is composed in skewed sections as disorderly as the world he creates in it, much to the dismay of some critics. Frank J. Baldaro wrote in the American Theatre that Wilson is "an incomprehensible work that spills over with names but is devoid of characters." Baldaro disliked the novel's structure, calling it a "collage of faked bits and fragments" that "teems with incidents and anecdotes, but lacks either plot or sense—it's ultimately a literary stunt that dares to ridicule the jargon and bombast of scholarly writing, but is itself monumentally unfunny, apocalyptically cryptic and impossible to decode." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly, however, liked the ridicule in Mamet's work. The reviewer called the work "an imitation of a scholarly work—or at least the sort of scholarly work that might be undertaken in the 24th century," concluding: "Mamet's jeu d'esprit will certainly surprise those who imagine the author of American Buffalo operates only in the backstreets idiom of his plays." Joseph Dewey of the Review of Contemporary Fiction appreciated Mamet's take on the future in Wilson: "Mamet targets with luscious savvy and deadpan irony the limitless pretense of academics, hungry for tenure, to suture history … to talk their way into reasonable order."
Mamet also penned a script for the film sequel to Silence of the Lambs, titled Hannibal. In the script, Hannibal has escaped prison and is hiding out in Florence, Italy, as a museum curator. FBI detective Clarice Starling (played in the second movie by Julianne Moore) is reassigned to his case and proceeds to track him down. While the sequel to the original thriller was anxiously awaited by audiences, some were disappointed at the movie's lack of horror, blood, and guts. "Hannibal is more shocking, and amusing, than disturbing," wrote Brian D. Johnson in Maclean's. Johnson also stated that "despite some exquisite moments, Hannibal feels overwrought." Todd McCarthy praised the first movie, remarking in Variety that "the public will … exhibit a ravenous appetite for the continuing saga of one of contemporary literature and cinema's most fascinating villains." McCarthy admitted that the sequel was "ultimately more shallow and crass at its heart than its predecessor," but concluded that "Hannibal is nevertheless tantalizing, engrossing, and occasionally startling."
In his more recent nonfiction works, Mamet has continued to comment disapprovingly on Hollywood, and he has also written on another area of personal interest: Judaism and the Jewish community. His Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, written with Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, offers scholarly commentary on the Torah from the rabbi, while Mamet attempts to apply this wisdom to contemporary life. While a Publishers Weekly reviewer felt the two halves of the book do not mesh well, thus leaving "the lay reader struggling to understand its meaning," the critic nevertheless considered the text to be "insightful and inspiring." In a more critical work, The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews, Mamet chastises many modern-day Jews for rejecting their heritage. Not only do they fail to honor traditions such as the Seder, according to the author, but they also seem to despise everything about their people, including themselves, and are ungrateful for the struggles and sufferings previous generations have endured. David Margolick, writing for the New York Times, considered Mamet's views dated; the critic admits that there was much negativity among Jews a generation or two ago, but felt that this is no longer true for the most part. "Like everything he does," stated Margolick, the book "… is blunt and bracing, honest and provocative, original and gutsy. At the same time, it's not exactly clear which Jews Mamet is talking about, what decade they live in, how fairly he treats them or even how many of them there are." Booklist writer Jay Freeman described The Wicked Son as "a rather confusing but very provocative analysis" that "will likely outrage many Jews and non-Jews."
Back to one of his favorite subjects, the pettiness of Hollywood, Mamet penned Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business. Like the realtors in Glengarry Glen Ross, the Hollywood filmmaking community depicted in this work are backstabbing, faithless, and opportunistic. The main cause of the sorry state of the movie industry is the love of money over art, and Mamet criticizes not only studios but also film schools for perpetrating this status quo. "Mamet writes with refreshing candor about the treacherous world of Hollywood," remarked Gregory McNamee in the Hollywood Reporter. Warning aspiring filmmakers of the dangers they will have to survive in order to success, Mamet also provides them with some hard-earned advice in Bambi vs. Godzilla. While Entertainment Weekly contributor Benjamin Svetkey felt the criticisms of the film industry detailed here are not "exactly illuminating," a Kirkus Reviews writer asserted that "Mamet does an estimable job of marrying his expected cynicism with a less predictable but no less vehement defense of film as art."
Mamet's long career has been largely successful; he has received critical acclaim and prestigious awards, even though he infrequently writes work that has broad popular appeal. While he has written novels and even children's books, it is his work for stage and film that has garnered him the most attention, as well as inspiring much comment and advice from the author himself. Hollywood shows little respect for script writers, Mamet has learned, and in his True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor he advises thespians to respect both writers and audiences a little more. "The ‘work’ an actor does ‘on the script’ makes no difference," he comments here. "It has been done for him already by the author. The actor must simply deliver the lines and the meaning ‘will come from your intention toward the person to whom they are said.’" He also offers these words: "The audience will teach you how to act and the audience will teach you how to write and to direct. [Doesn't sound much fun for the audience!] The classroom will teach you how to obey, and obedience in the theatre will get you nowhere."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bigsby, C.W.E., David Mamet, Methuen (London, England), 1985.
Bock, Hedwig, and Albert Wertheim, editors, Essays on Contemporary American Drama, Max Hueber (Munich, Germany), 1981.
Brewer, Gay, David Mamet and Film: Illusion/Disillusion in a Wounded Land, McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 1993.
Carroll, Dennis, David Mamet, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987.
Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 9, 1978, Volume 15, 1980, Volume 34, 1985, Volume 46, 1988, Volume 91, 1996.
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 27, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Dean, Anne, David Mamet: Language as Dramatic Action, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (Teaneck, NJ), 1990.
Drama Criticism, Volume 4, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Kane, Leslie, Weasels and Wisemen: Education, Ethics, and Ethnicity in David Mamet, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
America, June 5, 1999, Richard A. Blacke, "Boy Overboard," p. 14.
American Theatre, November 1, 2002, Randy Gener, "Speed the Plow: Six Playwrights Parlay Their Dramatic Themes into New Fiction," pp. 75-76, and Frank J. Baldaro, review of Wilson: A Consideration of the Sources, pp. 80-81; January 1, 2003, Jonathan Kalb, "Stardust Melancholy," pp. 42-49.
Atlantic Monthly, March, 2007, review of Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business, p. 113.
Back Stage, November 22, 2002, Julius Novick, review of Boston Marriage, p. 48.
Back Stage West, February 15, 2001, George Weinberg-Harter, review of Uncle Vanya, p. 12, Var Smith, review of Speed-the-Plow, p. 14, and Michael Green, review of The Winslow Boy, p. 15; April 12, 2001, D.L. King, review of Oleanna, p. 15; September 20, 2001, Brad Schreiber, review of A Life in the Theatre, p. 14; November 15, 2001, Hoyt Hilsman, review of Oleanna, p. 15.
Book, September, 2001, Tom LeClair, review of Wilson: A Consideration of the Source, p. 76.
Booklist, September 15, 2002, Keir Graff, review of South of the Northeast Kingdom, p. 202; August 1, 2006, Jay Freeman, review of The Wicked Son, p. 4; February 15, 2007, Jerry Eberle, review of Bambi vs. Godzilla, p. 19.
Broadcasting & Cable, September 25, 2000, "CBS Teams with Mamet, Morrie Author," p. 28; September 30, 2002, "Pariah Television," p. 18.
California Bookwatch, December, 2006, review of The Wicked Son.
Christian Century, September 13, 2000, James M. Wall, "Probing the Depths," p. 932.
Daily Variety, November 21, 2002, review of Boston Marriage, p. 2; March 9, 2004, Dennis Harvey, review of Dr. Faustus, p. 4; March 31, 2005, Dennis Harvey, review of The Voysey Inheritance, p. 10; August 2, 2005, Frank L. Rizzo, review of American Buffalo, p. 7; December 7, 2006, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Voysey Inheritance, p. 2; February 9, 2007, Bob Verni, review of Speed-the-Plow, p. 6.
Economist, August 2, 2003, "Not Just a Blonde Wizard," review of Edmond, p. 72.
Entertainment Weekly, July 9, 1999, review of Lansky, p. 82; January 12, 2001, "What to Watch," p. 61; November 16, 2001, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of Heist, p. 144; December 7, 2001, "Cybertalk," p. 108; November 29, 2002, Doug Brod, review of Glengarry Glen Ross; December 13, 2002, Lawrence Frascella, review of Boston Marriage, p. 92; March 19, 2004, Owen Gleiberman, review of Spartan, p. 45.
Financial Times, December 5, 2001, Alastair Macaulay, review of Boston Marriage, p. 18; May 17, 2002, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of Ricky: Jay on the Stem, p. 71.
Hollywood Reporter, September 5, 2001, Michael Rechtshaffen, review of Heist, p. 2; September 19, 2001, Ed Kaufman, review of A Life in the Theatre, p. 8; November 22, 2002, Franck Scheck, review of Boston Marriage, p. 42; July 22, 2003, Ray Bennett, review of Edmond, p. 20; February 10, 2006, Jay Reiner, review of Boston Marriage, p. 18; December 7, 2006, Alexis Greene, review of The Voysey Inheritance, p. 10; February 12, 2007, Gregory McNamee, review of Bambi vs. Godzilla, p. 26; February 14, 2007, Laurence Vittes, review of Speed-the-Plow, p. 20.
Insight on the News, January 1, 2001, Rex Roberts, "Cinema Verite," p. 27.
Interview, December 1, 2000, Guy Flatley, review of State and Main, p. 58.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of South of the Northeast Kingdom, p. 1012; August 15, 2006, review of The Wicked Son, p. 825; November 15, 2006, review of Bambi vs. Godzilla, p. 1163.
Library Journal, March 15, 2001, Barry X. Miller, review of State and Main, p. 87; February 1, 2007, Roy Liebman, review of Bambi vs. Godzilla, p. 74.
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Maclean's, December 25, 2000, Brian D. Johnson, "Holiday Escapades: Tales of Self-Absorbed Man Enjoying Mid-life Epiphanies Dominate This Season's Fare," p. 148; February 19, 2001, Brian D. Johnson, "Haute-Cannibal Cuisine," p. 48; November 12, 2001, Brian D. Johnson, "A Knack for Noir," p. 53.
Modern Drama, September, 1991, Jack V. Barbara, review of American Buffalo, pp. 271-272, 275.
Nation, April 28, 1984, Stephen Harvey, review of Glengarry Glen Ross, pp. 522-523; December 30, 2002, David Kaufman, "Mamet Goes Wildeing," review of Boston Marriage, p. 35.
New Republic, July 12, 1982, Robert Brustein, review of Edmond, pp. 23-24.
New Statesman & Society, June 2, 2003, Sheridan Morley, "Norwegian Wood: Sheridan Morley on a Damp Ibsen, an Early Mamet, and Shakespeare out of His Time," p. 46.
New York, February 12, 2001, David Ansen, "Knock, Knock. Who's There?," p. 56; November 19, 2001, Devin Gordon, review of Heist, p. 69.
New Yorker, November 10, 1975, Edith Oliver, review of Sexual Perversity in Chicago, pp. 135-136; August 1, 1994, John Lahr, review of The Cryptogram, p. 70.
New York Times, July 5, 1976, Frank Rich, review of American Buffalo; April 14, 1995, Vincent Canby, review of The Cryptogram, p. C3.
New York Times Book Review, November 20, 1994, James McManus, review of The Village, p. 24.
New York Times Magazine, March 12, 1978, Richard Eder, profile of David Mamet, pp. 40, 42, 45, 47.
People, December 20, 1982, review of The Verdict.
Publishers Weekly, September 24, 2001, review of Wilson, p. 67; August 4, 2003, review of Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, p. 75; August 21, 2006, review of The Wicked Son, p. 64; November 13, 2006, review of Bambi vs. Godzilla, p. 43.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, June 22, 2002, Joseph Dewey, review of Wilson, p. 224.
Sarasota Herald Tribune, August 10, 2001, Philip Booth, review of Lakeboat, p. 14.
Smithsonian, June 1, 2001, Kathleen Burke, review of River Run Cookbook: Southern Comfort from Vermont, p. 124.
Time, May 17, 1999, Richard Corliss, "The Winslow Boy," p. 90; December 25, 2000, Joel Stein, "David Mamet," p. 164; January 15, 2001, Richard Corliss, review of State and Main, p. 138; January 29, 2001, Jess Cagle, "The Bite Stuff," p. 60; November 19, 2001, Richard Schickel, review of Heist, p. 143.
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Us, January 10, 1978, Robin Reeves, article on David Mamet.
Variety, June 21, 1999, Markland Taylor, review of Boston Marriage, p. 88; August 16, 1999, Michael Fleming, "Mamet Moves into Comedy with Maine," p. 13; November 1, 1999, Charles Isher- wood, reviews of The Water Engine and Mr. Happiness, p. 99; January 17, 2000, Robert Hofler, reviews of Sexual Perversity in Chicago and The Duck Variations, p. 140; February 14, 2000, Matt Wolf, review of American Buffalo, p. 49; March 6, 2000, Robert L. Daniels, review of Glengarry Glen Ross, p. 50; March 20, 2000, Charles Isherwood, review of American Buffalo, p. 36; March 27, 2000, Matt Wolf, review of Speed-the-Plow, p. 32; April 17, 2000, Emanuel Levy, review of Lakeboat, p. 28; September 4, 2000, Eddie Cockrell, review of State and Main, p. 19; February 5, 2001, Todd McCarthy, review of Hannibal, p. 37; April 16, 2001, Matt Wolf, review of Boston Marriage, p. 39; September 10, 2001, David Rooney, review of Heist, p. 62; January 7, 2002, Chris Jones, review of Glengarry Glen Ross, p. 53; May 13, 2002, Charles Isherwood, review of Ricky Jay, p. 32; May 26, 2003, Matt Wolf, review of Sexual Perversity in Chicago, p. 42; August 4, 2003, Matt Wolf, review of Edmond, p. 30; March 15, 2004, Dennis Harvey, review of Dr. Faustus, p. 50; August 8, 2005, Frank L. Rizzo, review of American Buffalo, p. 30; February 14, 2005, Matt Wolf, "A Life in the Theatre," p. 49; December 11, 2006, Marilyn Stasio, review of the Voysey Inheritance, p. 59, and Michaela Boland, review of Reunion, p. 62.
Village Voice, July 5, 1976, Ross Wetzsteon, profile of Mamet, pp. 101, 103-104; May 7, 1979, Eileen Blumenthal, review of The Woods, p. 103.
Curtain Up,http://www.curtainup.com/ (May 28, 2003), reviews of Boston Marriage and Ricky Jay.
David Mamet Review,http://mamet.eserver.org (November 20, 2003).
FilmMakers,http://www.filmmakers.com/ (November 20, 2003), "David Alan Mamet: Filmography and Credits."
Forbes Online,http://www.forbes.com/ (March 16, 2007), David Ng, "David Mamet vs. Hollywood."
New York Times Online,http://www.nytimes.com/ (November 5, 2006), David Margolick, "Maybe I Am Chopped Liver," review of The Wicked Son.
Press-Telegram Online,http://www.presstelegram.com/ (April 27, 2007), John Farrell, "Two Short Works Show David Mamet's Softer Side," reviews of The Water Engine and Mr. Happiness.
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (May 28, 2003), interview with David Mamet.
Smithsonian Online,http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/ (November 20, 2003), "Book Reviews: River Run Cookbook."