Picks and Pans Review: Writing in Restaurants

updated 05/04/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/04/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by David Mamet

Warning: This collection of essays and speeches is mostly for the serious student of the theater or creative writing. Mamet, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for Glengarry Glen Ross, is one of our most versatile playwrights (Sexual Perversity in Chicago, American Buffalo), a skilled screenwriter (The Verdict) and even showed his style in a recent episode of Hill Street Blues. He is provocative when analyzing American culture and the theater: "We live in an illiterate country. The mass media—the commercial theater included—pander to the low and the lowest of the low in human experience. They, finally, debase us through the sheer weight of their mindlessness." Occasionally he exhibits a naïveté surprising in someone whose work has so often been cynical. He even invokes the ghost of Leo Tolstoi: "If you cannot deal with Human Beings with love, you must not deal with them at all." When Mamet chooses to parachute down from his cloud, he can be a powerful advocate for theater. The most important essay in the book—from a practical standpoint—encourages radio theater, which is intimate, inexpensive and lets artists experiment without the burden of turning a profit on mega-dollar stage productions. Mamet also provides colorful recollections of his hometown, Chicago, and his honeymoon in Paris with actress Lindsay Crouse, when he spent two days curled up on the bed. He attributes his behavior to an inherited fear of "taking a vacation." Most affectingly, Mamet reflects on devoting 20 years to a craft he loves: "In theatrical musings I had, for the first time in my life, discovered a task which I adored, and to which dedication was the exact opposite of drudgery." This nonfiction work, however, is just the reverse. It seems to have been a chore to assemble. (Viking, $15.95)

From Our Partners