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How Good is David Mamet, Anyway?: Writings on Theater--and Why It Matters Hardcover – November 5, 1999

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

New York Observer theater critic Heilpern has pulled together 70 of his essaysAwhat he considers his best, most important writings. Although he doesn't directly answer the question posed in the book's title, he shows us the joy, anger, anxiety, and other responses he's had to the plays that he has puzzled over during the course of his career. His comments are perceptive, enjoyable, and always livelyAwhether one agrees with them or not. One provocative essay, for example, which deals with the differences between British and American theater, is sure to cause a stir among theater folks. One quibble is that the pieces are not dated, so, although Heilpern writes about some people more than once (Arthur Miller and David Mamet, for example), it is hard to track how his ideas and opinions about them have changed over the years. Recommended for academic libraries or major subject collections.ASusan L. Peters, Emory Univ. Lib., Atlanta
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Most theater reviews have a very short shelf life, for rare are the likes of George Bernard Shaw and Robert Brustein, whose notices remain news years after their subjects have closed. Heilpern clearly aspires to those likes but often falls short. Too many of these 70 or so pieces culled from the New York Observer fail to rise above the "thumbs up, thumbs down" world of daily deadline journalism. Yet there are some gems. Every once in a while, especially in the most recent entries, Heilpern is touched by a muse of fire. Reviews of David Mamet's Cryptogram and The Old Neighborhood become devastating critiques of Mamet's writing style and his place in American theater. Articles on the Tony Awards and the closing of Carousel spark thoughtful, passionate meditations on the state of theater in the '90s. Of the several news features, some are pure puffery, amusing but not very nutritious, whereas a few are well-researched, intelligently written profiles, most notably those of Arthur Miller and the English music hall performer Max Wall. Jack Helbig
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (November 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415925479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415925471
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,156,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By Erik Sherman on February 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'll admit (and, probably, commit) the tediousness of many reviewers. Sanctimonious and certain, they often slash and burn their way across a landscape that they know only as outsiders. But now and then you find someone who understands a topic deeply, has experience in it, and a sharp and humane eye, all while being amusing. I'd place John Heilpern in this category if his work didn't do so itself.

Theater critic for the New York Observer, Heilpern is passionate about the topic, has seen his own plays produced, and has an unusually keep wit. Although his latest book is a biography of the British playwright, John Osborne, I came across How Good Is David Mamet, Anyway?, which came out in 1999, in a used book store. I'll confess to never having read Heilpern's work before - it was the title that got me, as I'm not the world's largest Mamet fan, at least in the non-fiction of his that I've read of late. And it's fairly unusual for someone in the theatrical community to take on a contemporary icon.

But take him on Heilpern did, as well as writers at the New York Times, American anglophilia, Disney Land (the new name for Broadway), and other topics. At the same time, he's anything but mean-spirited. Many of his pieces put praise where he thinks it's due and tries to analyze what is good and bad about productions. Many of his observations run from the droll to the uproariously funny. And where else can you get a delightful transcript of a lunch between Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson.

If you've any regard for theater, or for intelligent criticism of any sort, you should be tickled with this book. Now I'll have to get hold of a copy of his Osborne biography.
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Format: Hardcover
At last, readers beyond the subscription list of the New York Observer have the opportunity to read one of the most gifted--and funniest--writers around. As it happens, this book is a collection of his writing on theater (save for the non-theatrical, though rivetingly dramatic, account of Heilpern's struggle with a murderous roommate named Jack the Cat), but this work is a delight for anyone who appreciates finely tuned yet uproarious humor, a handsome prose style and a sensibility that is at once erudite, entertaining and inviting. How good is John Heilpern's "How Good Is David Mamet, Anyway?" anyway? Peerless.
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Format: Hardcover
John Heilpern is without question the best critic of his generation, and his reviews in the weekly "New York Observer" can't be beat! Make plans to buy this collection from the most important living theater critic and England's best export since Archie Leach!
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