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.