David Mamet

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Why would established authors continue to work for publishing companies instead of putting out their own books? I suppose if there is a bucket of money involved, it might make sense to be owned rather than to own, but as publishers continue to be undone by technological tumult, they have fewer dollars to pay except for blockbusters, and they do less and less in terms of fact-checking, publicity, etc. In fact, the only reason there will soon be to publish a printed book is for vanity, the ego-stroking joy of having a printed-and-bound product to show off. 

David Mamet has made the only intelligent decision, going the lone-wolf route with his forthcoming book. From Leslie Kaufman in the New York Times:

“As digital disruption continues to reshape the publishing market, self-publishing — including distribution digitally or as print on demand — has become more and more popular, and more feasible, with an increasing array of options for anyone with an idea and a keyboard. Most of the attention so far has focused on unknown and unsigned authors who storm onto the best-seller lists through their own ingenuity.

The announcement by ICM and Mr. Mamet suggests that self-publishing will begin to widen its net and become attractive also to more established authors. For one thing, as traditional publishers have cut back on marketing, this route allows well-known figures like Mr. Mamet to look after their own publicity.

Then there is the money. While self-published authors get no advance, they typically receive 70 percent of sales. A standard contract with a traditional house gives an author an advance, and only pays royalties — the standard is 25 percent of digital sales and 7 to 12 percent of the list price for bound books — after the advance is earned back in sales.”

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David Mamet has taken his right-wing apostasy to the hilt, arguing at the Daily Beast that we really, really need armed security guards in schools. The problem is, having spoken to many security guards over the years, I know lots of them would be violating parole if they carried firearms. This assertion seems particularly untrue: “The individual is not only best qualified to provide his own personal defense, he is the only one qualified to do so.” No, not really. Oh, and fuck Mitch and Murray! From “Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm“:

“What possible purpose in declaring schools ‘gun-free zones’? Who bringing a gun, with evil intent, into a school would be deterred by the sign?

Ah, but perhaps one, legally carrying a gun, might bring it into the school.


We need more armed citizens in the schools.

Walk down Madison Avenue in New York. Many posh stores have, on view, or behind a two-way mirror, an armed guard. Walk into most any pawnshop, jewelry story, currency exchange, gold store in the country, and there will be an armed guard nearby. Why? As currency, jewelry, gold are precious. Who complains about the presence of these armed guards? And is this wealth more precious than our children?

Apparently it is: for the Left adduces arguments against armed presence in the school but not in the wristwatch stores.

Q. How many accidental shootings occurred last year in jewelry stores, or on any premises with armed security guards?

Why not then, for the love of God, have an armed presence in the schools? It could be done at the cost of a pistol (several hundred dollars), and a few hours of training (that’s all the security guards get). Why not offer teachers, administrators, custodians, a small extra stipend for completing a firearms-safety course and carrying a concealed weapon to school? The arguments to the contrary escape me.”


Not one of those smiley conservatives. (Image by David Shankbone.)

I guess I don’t follow the politics of playwrights closely enough, but my immediate reaction when I read David Mamet’s article, “Why I Am No Longer A ‘Brain-Dead Liberal,'” in the Village Voice a couple years back was: Mamet was a liberal?!? Having read his plays and watched his films, I always assumed that he was a right-wing guy. It wasn’t anything specific in his work, just a vibe I got from it. And who cares either way? He’s done a lot of great writing.

Terry Teachout has an analysis of Mamet’s conversion in Commentary. (The piece is pegged to Mamet’s new book of essays, Theatre.) It’s an interesting read, though I don’t agree with Teachout’s conclusion that politically liberal critics will only interpret Mamet’s work from here on in through the prism of his political transformation. An excerpt about Mamet’s disdain for government subsidies for theater:

“Conversely, Mamet dismisses state subsidy for the theatrical arts as no more than a means of propping up incompetent ‘champions of right thinking’ whose work would otherwise be incapable of attracting an audience. Such playwrights, he says, are purveyors of politically correct ‘pseudodramas’ that ‘begin with a conclusion (capitalism, America, men, and so on, are bad) and award the audience for applauding its agreement.’ For Mamet, such plays are the opposite of true theater, whose power lies not in its willingness to coddle our preconceptions but its unparalleled ability to shock us into seeing the world as it really is. ‘In the great drama,’ he writes, ‘we follow a supposedly understood first principle to its astounding and unexpected conclusion. We are pleased to find ourselves able to revise our understanding.'”

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David Mamet: Put me up on the Cadillac board! (Image by David Shankbone.)

In 2009, Will Hubbard and Alex Carnevale of This Recording compiled a list called “The 100 Greatest Writers of All Time.” I’m not saying I agree with everything one-hundred percent, but it’s probably the best literary list I’ve ever come across. From number one hundred to the top spot, the duo rank the best writers in the history of the world, including poets, playwrights, essayists, short story writers and novelists. There are, of course, the household names (Congratulations, William Shakespeare!), but there are a lot of provocative inclusions as well. You owe it to yourself to read the whole thing, but here are a few examples of the entries:

88. David Mamet
The quintessentially Jewish-American dramatist, his conquests of poetry and fiction were minor. But he exploded the idea of the American play, creating an exciting new vernacular that brought crowds, excitement and controversy to the stage. Famous for shutting down an all-female production of his masterpiece Glengarry Glen Ross, Mamet is an able theoretician, and maybe the most important Chicago Jew of all time. Recommended reading: American Buffalo, The Duck Variations, Boston Marriage.

49. Charles Olson
America’s Bard, the voice of New England. Incredibly tall, incredibly wacked. He is the father of much of the American verse that directly followed, but he would never know just how lasting his work would be. He is our poet of the future, a deep thinker who lacked empathy for everyone but himself. Self-involvement can became a kind of genius at this depth, or so we hope. Recommended reading: “The Post Office”, The Maximus Poems, “The K”.

20. Laurence Sterne
The finest experimentalist ever. Smash novels, insights of incomparable erudition, hilarious, so ahead of their time that they seem more modern than most things published today. Tristram Shandy has lasted longer than its detractors. Many of its jokes have still yet to be parsed from a text thick with meaning, with comedy and profound statements of humanity in a time where it was not so easy to recognize what exactly that meant. Recommended reading: A Sentimental Journey, Tristram Shandy.

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