Danny’s Mercifully Short Book Reviews: #1 – The Secret Knowledge, On the Dismantling of American Culture, by David Mamet

The hardest part of writing something is getting started so I’m just going to begin with talking about beginning to write!  I’m not that great at it, but if you want an example of good writing, a Pulitzer Prize winner isn’t a bad place to start.

David Mamet is the Pulitzer Prize winning writer of Glengary Glenn Ross, the Tony Award-winning Broadway play and movie of the same name.  “The Secret Knowledge” goes through Mamet’s reasoning behind converting from an ardent political Liberal to a Conservative.

The most telling quote, and the beginning of his journey is this…

My interest in politics began when I noticed that I acted differently than I spoke…

He realized that as a writer his early plays such as American Buffalo and Glengary Glen Ross all concerned capitalism and business, generally of course highlighting the supposed evils of a capitalist free market society.

I never questioned my tribal assumption that Capitalisim was bad, although I, simultaneously, never acted upon those feelings…

Sidebar!: Mamet does use a TON of commas which I’m not a fan of…

As a youth I enjoyed–indeed, like most of my contemporaries, revered–the agitprop plays of Brecht, and his indictments of Capitalism.  It later occurred to me his plays were copyrighted, and that he, like I, was living through the operations of that same free market.

So he realized that while protesting the free market, he and others were using the free market as a needed tool to promote, protect and yes, sell (ie: profit from) their work.

Mamet then spends quite a fair amount of time expounding on down the road of his Progressive-to-Conservative conversion.  Its quite a fascinating if arduous read for someone of my current intellectual condition, that is, my brain is fried from not enough mental exercise (reading) and general mental exhaustion from a tiring (but awesome) American-dream type of life.  If you’re in that same boat, you may run into a few instances where you’re pulling up Websters online and searching for the meaning of words like inchoate, (which apparently means “not yet completed or fully developed; rudimentary, just begun; incipient, not organized; lacking order.”)

If you can imagine me gesturing, Mamet writes at this level up here (hand motioning over my head) while I’m down here, (hand motioning right around chest level-ish).

Regardless, while you’ll find plenty to question, The Secret Life is full of great insight into American political and social culture, and some pretty awesome quotables, which for the sake of time I won’t go crazy on here.

I definitely recommend the book for conservatives and liberals alike.  It does provide good insight into how both sides think.  It also takes a small hammer to the idea that all “intellectuals” lean to the left.

If you’d like to see how those liberal intellectuals feel about Mamet’s conversion and book, you can read Christopher Hitchen’s review here on the New York Times site.  If you’d rather not, I can give you a quick synopsis just by quoting the first part of the first sentance…

This is an extraordinarily irritating book…

Tells you everything you need to know if you want to know how Mamet’s former contemporaries feel about it.

So read the book, at least make the effort.  I liked it.  The end.  Kept it mercifully short!

~ Danny


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