Books by David Mamet

David Alan Mamet is an American playwright, screenwriter, director, poet, essayist and novelist. He won a Pulitzer in 1984 for his play Glengarry Glen Ross and has received two Tony nominations. His latest book, The Secret Knowledge is out this week. Kirkus said it was "[a] Manichean analysis from a strident new voice from the Right—for liberals, something intended to ignite antagonism; for the like-minded, a buttress against the opposition." Photo credit: Brigitte Lacombe


CHICAGO by David Mamet
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 27, 2018

"An evocative, impressive return that Mamet fans will welcome."
A major bard of the Windy City returns, this time with a novel devoted to the mob era and some of its more minor players. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: June 2, 2011

"A Manichean analysis from a strident new voice from the Right—for liberals, something intended to ignite antagonism; for the like-minded, a buttress against the opposition."
A Pulitzer Prize-winning showman and "reformed Liberal" rants about the precarious state of the nation. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Feb. 6, 2007

"A sleek and hardboiled seminar on cinema's glorious highs and hellish lows."
The playwright/screenwriter/director/essayist (The Wicked Son, Oct. 2006, etc.) presents lessons on the movie industry, seasoned with realism. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Oct. 10, 2006

"Mamet scolds and laments in this provocative addition to the Jewish Encounters series."
Playwright, novelist, filmmaker and essayist Mamet (South of the Northeast Kingdom, 2002, etc.) angrily preaches an emphatic sermon to anti-Semites—Jewish anti-Semites in particular. Read full book review >
SOUTH OF THE NORTHEAST KINGDOM by David Mamet
NON-FICTION
Released: Oct. 8, 2002

"The National Geographic Directions series is proving to be a winner, not quaint but quirky. Mamet comes out swinging and singing, and the sense of place falls neatly in between. (Photographs)"
A sidelong, inferential portrait of Mamet's (The Cabin, 1992, etc.) Vermont hometown, with a spirited indictment of American political perfidy and cultural poverty. Read full book review >
WILSON by David Mamet
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

"Well, folks, we're here to tell you—Wilson isn't even half-vast."
You'll want to clear your sinuses by renting a video of Glengarry Glen Ross or American Buffalo after wrestling with this unruly anti-novel by the noted playwright and remarkably unremarkable writer of fiction. It's a futurist-modernist text of sorts, whose premise is the loss of virtually all literary and popular culture (when the Internet crashed, in 2021), and "scholarly" attempts to reconstruct it from surviving fragments (faithfully, numbingly reproduced here). If Jacques Barzun had been re-edited by Paulie Shore, you might have something like this book's aggressive profusion of horrendous puns ("Get Dressed, You Married Gentlemen"), analyses of dumb (many ethnic) jokes, imitation poetry, memoirs of would-be celebrities (such as president Woodrow Wilson's spacey "ex-wife'), and (far too few) blank pages. Occasional good gags (e.g., a fragment of Dink Stover at Yale is "believed to be from Aristotle") are infrequent needles in this smothering haystack of a novel. One notes approvingly a footnote reference to a fictitious tome deemed "either a work of overwhelming erudition or a vast pile of shit." Read full book review >
JAFSIE AND JOHN HENRY by David Mamet
NONFICTION
Released: April 1, 1999

A thin collection—in content as well as size—of essays from filmmaker, playwright, novelist, and he-man epigone Mamet (The Old Religion, 1996 etc.). In slightly different forms, these essays have appeared in magazines such as Esquire and Men's Journal. While the pieces span a variety of topics, from the vagaries of movie-making to hunting to favorite items of haberdashery, they are almost all inflected by Mamet's darkening, sepulchral gloom about turning 50. The saving and damning grace of these essays is that they tend to reveal the true quality of their author's mind. While Mamet may write some of the sharpest dialogue, you know, sharpest dialogue around, as a thinker he is far too impressed and obsessed with the idea of David Mamet. In his own mind, he shines brave and clever and witty and ironic, but far too often he comes off more as a tinhorn, Hemingway-manquÇ construction of Viagra masculinity. While his own frequent epigrams and aperáus (e.g., "it's real nice to live in a real nice house") usually go awry, he does have a pitch-perfect Bartlett's ability to slip in apt quotations or citations from others. He's at his best on the timeless savageries and inanities of Hollywood, the mindlessness of producers, the low lot of writers. He merely plods along in his forced metaphysically-aspirant appreciations of beloved objects (scotch, knives, guns, art pottery). And he is at his worst whenever he's dredging up fragmentary recollections of his youth or trying to play the philosopher. Read full book review >
THE OLD RELIGION by David Mamet
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

Macho minimalism serves a moral cause poorly. Playwright, novelist (The Village, 1994), essayist (Make Believe Town, 1996), and filmmaker Mamet is known for his hard- driving, unsentimental portraits of rakish and raffish men contending with life's rough-and-tumble. But this historical fiction about a bona fide American Jewish martyr, circa 1915, is something else again. Part failed Hemingwayesque melodrama, and part Platonic meditative monologue, the book seems oddly set against its own success. Very brief chapters peppered with monosyllabic dialogue scissor the plot into dull-edged fragments, even though a unifying story lurks somewhere in there: the tale of Atlanta, Georgia, factory owner Leo Frank's false accusation, arrest, trial and conviction, and his lynching, for allegedly raping and murdering Mary Phagan, one of his female employees. That's the melodrama; because his religion is considered outrÇ in the South, Frank—originally a New York Jew—must inevitably be a victim, Mamet suggests. The novel's perversity lies partially in the jarring stylistic gaps between Mamet's street-wise dialogue and his eviscerated philosophizing, conducted in Leo's turgid, unpersuasively abstract, thoughts. On the one hand, readers eavesdrop on realistically anonymous yet unmoored snippets of conversation. Typically tight-lipped secondary deadbeat characters will mutter, when feeling loquacious, such things as ``There in the heat, eh?'' and ``uh huh.'' At the other extreme, we hear this from Frank himself: `` `How much do we unwittingly intuit,' he thought, `in extenuation of that which we lack the honesty to call ``random''?' '' An incongruously slow and disjointed start leads to somewhat better things as the story fitfully unfolds, but the author's literary mannerisms continually befuddle the action and limit our access to Frank, a forlorn and fatalistic figure whose jailhouse dedication to learning Hebrew and reading all 47 novels by Trollope seems implausible as rendered here. The close is swift, true, and brutal, like the best of Mamet—but the rest isn't. A writer staggers and mumbles. Read full book review >
MAKE-BELIEVE TOWN by David Mamet
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: June 1, 1996

The playwright's latest collection of short, loosely written essays (after The Cabin, 1992) puts his trademark one-upmanship and Chicago machismo on theatrical/literary criticism, reminiscences, and social commentary. Both Mamet's subjects and attitudes will be familiar. Once again, with varying degrees of deliberation, he puts his stamp on stage and screen, men and women, gambling and competition, diners and restaurants, Jewishness and the American cultural mind. His reminiscences are pleasantly sentimental and nostalgic, especially on his theatrical apprenticeship, toiling away at captions for a girlie magazine, and his bygone favorite eatery. His masculine disposition is well represented: ``The Diner'' defines the art of hanging out (and writing) in places called the Idle-Hour and Coffee-Corner, and the Hemingwayesque ``Deer Hunting'' articulates Mamet's own sportsman's experience. For all the other essays' easygoing style, his social criticism by comparison smarts with intractable harshness, Juvenalian vigor, and not a little chutzpah. After castigating Hollywood screenwriting and showbiz nudity, Mamet condemns the same cheap desire for entertainment hidden in Nixon's funeral, the Oklahoma bombing, and Washington's Holocaust Memorial. Like his plays' dialogues, Mamet's essays argue purposively and energetically from an exaggerated viewpoint in a kind of preemptive challenge to his readers' responses. In general, although there are stand-outs among these pieces (which have been published in venues as varied as Playboy, the New York Times Magazine, and the Land's End mail-order catalog), none are quite as good as those in Some Freaks or Writing in Restaurants. Characteristically provocative, amusing, and messy, Mamet's latest collection of essays deliver wit, insight, and truculence in small, mixed doses. Read full book review >
THE VILLAGE by David Mamet
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 12, 1994

A disappointing first novel from the Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright. Mamet traverses ground familiar to those who read his collection of autobiographical essays (The Cabin, 1992), which often celebrates a sense of place. Here the locale is a New England village near the French-Canadian border. Again the elements are known—hunting, smoking, beautiful women. Not surprisingly, despite the presence of female characters, the novel has a lean, masculine flavor as it follows the inhabitants of the village through a year in their unexceptional lives. Dickie, owner of the general store (complete with potbellied stove) that is the focal point of commerce, information, and fellowship, constantly doodles the figures of his mortgage payment as he slips slowly into bankruptcy; a woman attracts the attention and lust of married men as well as single ones; one man becomes a local celebrity after he fends off some would-be attackers in the woods; another delights in nothing more than the simple pleasure of sitting in the sun at an auction, his cigarettes in his pocket and his dark glasses on. Old loves are remembered: a mother by her son, a woman by her former boyfriend. Beneath the restrained surface of the town, however, there is brooding anger and violence. A wife is beaten and the police are summoned. Marriages go sour but continue in silence. Through the year, the village itself, following the unchanging rhythms of the seasons, emerges as the only real character of the book. The townspeople are interchangeable cardboard cut-outs, merely set decorations for the location. This is subdued, for Mamet. He seems to want the reader to read it as he hears it on his mind's painstakingly crafted stage. But good, sharp, realistic dialogue can't save what comes across essentially as a banal, masculine, low-key Peyton Place. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Dec. 3, 1992

Third collection of compact autobiographical essays by the Pulitzer-winning playwright (Some Freaks, 1989; Writing in Restaurants, 1986). The 20 entries here share a tough, masculine flavor: Cigars, guns, beautiful women, and the romance of being a writer on the rise are the commanding notes. Most of the pieces celebrate locales: London, where Mamet scorns the food (``I don't think most Londoners could identify a vegetable with a gun to their head'') but salutes the teahouses; a cabin in Vermont, stinking of wood smoke and kerosene; Cambridge, Mass., where he gripes about recorded music in public places; and, above all, Chicago, home of his boyhood. It was at times a monstrous childhood. In his celebrated flat, precise voice, Mamet records how his stepfather beat his sister, how his grandfather tossed his mother down the stairs. Mamet's deadpan delivery sometimes flowers into hilarity- -for example, the time that he, ``a Nice Jewish Boy,'' was forced to eat platters of fried matzo when all he had in mind was sex on a bearskin rug with his latest conquest. Other essays talk of summer camp, listening to the radio, working in a truck factory, the ``friendly and hospitable fraternity'' of gun-shooting buffs. The characters, mostly men, are unforgettable, even if they appear only for a paragraph—such as Louis Herrmann, eye-doctor brother of composer Bernard Herrmann (``he was a beautiful man''). Once or twice, the prose is so lean that it turns artless—a report from Cannes becomes a laconic dribble bleached of emotion. Mostly, however, things crackle; Mamet offers a tribute to T.H. White's The Goshawk that fits his own work as well: ``The prose is hard and clear as crystal. It is unsentimental, it is simply written, it is a delight and an inspiration.'' Like the title says, not a mansion, not a cape or a ranch, but a cabin of words: bare wood and nails, hammered tight. Read full book review >