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.
“The world hates the Jews,” his discourse begins. Mamet wrestles with this persistent hatred by addressing co-religionists who distance themselves from their brethren. Those Jews, he says, are embodied in the person of the wicked son who separates himself from the group in the old Passover story; they are apostates and race traitors who do not know what they have forsaken. Mamet prescribes corrective medicine in many small doses. He instructs on what may have escaped those he scorns. He would heal the patent error and evident anomie of the ignorant with discussion of various matters, including myth and reality, sex, lies, superstition, shul management, the beset State of Israel, bar mitzvahs that encourage adoration of the golden calf and Santa Claus. His text is, of course, an angry jeremiad, and his classification of Judaism in terms of race could, in some quarters, be provocative. But, like Jeremiah, Mamet also preaches return and redemption. His bravura syntax scatters parentheses, dashes, footnotes and commas in abundance; his orotund vocabulary encompasses words like “miching,” “uncathected” and “benignantly.” Clearly, this isn’t the Mamet who transfixed us three decades ago with American Buffalo. And yet his argument is worth close attention and his book worth rereading. It is an admonition to “adversary intellectuals,” as Eric Hoffer termed them (In Our Time, 1976), and a rebuke to those who heedlessly reject an ancient heritage. Anyone wishing to better understand the condition of Judaism today might learn from the author’s flamboyant screed.
Mamet scolds and laments in this provocative addition to the Jewish Encounters series.