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Playwright David Mamet's three lectures at Columbia University are ostensibly about issues of dramatic structure, but as they unfold, and Mamet continually explores the relationship between dramatic structure and the lives we live, much broader concerns are revealed. Here, for example, is Mamet on political propaganda:
It is ... essential to the healthy political campaign that the issues be largely or perhaps totally symbolic--i.e., non-quantifiable. Peace With Honor, Communists in the State Department, Supply Side Economics, Recapture the Dream, Bring Back the Pride--these are the stuff of pageant. They are not social goals; they are, as Alfred Hitchcock told us, the MacGuffin.... The less specific the qualities of the MacGuffin are, the more interested the audience will be.... A loose abstraction allows audience members to project their own desires onto an essentially featureless goal.
Although occasionally academic, the overall tone of the lectures is consistent with Mamet's no-nonsense manner of speech. He has no time for obfuscation and little time for repetition, save when he must absolutely employ it for emphasis. He is passionate about good theater, and passionate about the truth. 3 Uses of the Knife makes an excellent companion piece to his True and False, which addressed similar philosophical matters in the form of advice on the actor's craft. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
One of America's leading living playwrights has crafted three short essays beginning with the premise that it is "our nature to dramatize." The belief in the centrality of drama to our daily lives and the centrality of our daily lives to good drama is the recurrent theme of his ruminations here. While he disdains the current vogue for "problem plays," he avoids attacking any of his contemporaries or their works. And without offering a how-to guide for aspiring playwrights, he provides some interesting thoughts on the inevitable difficulty in creating a convincing second act. Known and respected for his ability to create hyperrealistic dialog, Mamet ultimately reveals the theoretical justification for the sort of drama he writes so well. The text reads a bit like a lecture and never quite convinces the reader that this is a fundamental redefinition of drama. Still, it will be compelling to students of theater and serves as a good companion to Mamet's advice to actors, True and False (LJ 10/1/97). Recommended for academic and large public libraries.?Douglas McClemont, New York
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
This was recommended to me by a friend who is one of the best actor/director/playwright types on the Cape Breton scene. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Pmac
Interesting perspective, and very well-written. A great read and perspective on theatre for writers of all stripes. Lots of philosophical insight.Published 16 months ago by Will O'Neill
This reads like a weekend brainstorm into the dictaphone, or party-chatter with metropolitan friends. Read morePublished on Dec 21 2003 by rgarton
Mamet is a playwright savant. He finds sanity in an industry where sanity has no right to exist, and in this slender, essential volume, he points out various truths about not only... Read morePublished on May 28 2002 by Jack Rogan
David Mamet is a genius. I sat down with this book, thinking it would be discussing the drama of a play, or theatre, and it does, but more than that, it dissects the drama of life... Read morePublished on Jan. 9 2002
I think that this book follows Mamet's M.O. to a tee - It is very erudite, yet I find myself laughing. Read morePublished on Dec 15 2001 by Thor Vader
In 3 Uses of the Knife, Mamet has helped me realize that the difference between provoking an audience and manipulating them is the difference between art and salesmanship. Read morePublished on Nov. 20 2001 by Brent Noel