THREE USES OF THE KNIFE: David Mamet
Published in paperback: 2007: RRP 9.99
Review: Rod Dungate
(A link to the book in Amazon is given below.)
A stimulating contribution to an important debate
The vitality and intelligence that underpins Mamet’s plays underpins this examination of the purpose of drama. It means it’s an invigorating read – as stimulating as it is entertaining.
Mamet structures this work in three sections paralleling the three act model he assumes for drama (not necessarily Acts I, II and III by the way.) Within this framework he explores our need for drama in life and how we create it, and the needs of drama in our lives. He speaks with great authority and there is a breathlessness about the prose which spins you along – the effect is exhilarating. His arguments, while you may not agree with all of them, are always intriguing and enlightening.
Art he sees as essentially communal; art is not about meaning but about balancing, or trying to balance, the disparity between our conscious and unconscious minds. It’s a way we can find peace. He points out how often we wish to share our experience of a work of art with others. ‘We don’t say that of a television program.’
He returns constantly to the state of the US (easily transferable for the most part to the UK) and to politics. He frequently cites Shakespeare, Beckett, Bach. He has observations on life as he goes along: ‘Is it not clear that a product which must spend fortunes drawing attention to itself is probably not one we need?’ But he’s at his very, very best when talking specifically about the writing (or rather the wrighting of drama.
Part of the pleasure here is to read Mamet’s contrary views. Drama, he believes, isn’t about changing people. Speaking of audiences, he says: ‘These people have been paying my rent, all my life . . . [and I] have no intention of changing them. Why should I, and how could I?’ Later he explains his ‘Death of My Kitten speech’ notion – a must-read for all interested in drama! And my favourite: ‘I used to say that a good writer throws out the stuff that everybody else keeps. But an even better test occurs to me: perhaps a good writer keeps the stuff everybody else throws out.’
Those of us who care about drama / theatre / art often muse about truth, about what they say, about their effect on us, about What is art? Mamet’s contribution to these debates in this small-but-perfectly-formed book is significant.
Here is the link to the book in Amazon: