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The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture Hardcover – June 2, 2011
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"A Manichean analysis from a strident new voice from the Right---for liberals, something intended to ignite antagonism; for the like-minded, a buttress against the opposition." ---Kirkus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
David Mamet 's Glengarry Glen Ross won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1984. He is also the author of Writing in Restaurants and On Directing Film, both available from Penguin.
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This book marks Mamet's betrayal of Algren's code. The Chicago Sharpie has smartened up. He's working for The Big Guys now, peddling their line with all the gusto of the salesmen in Glengarry Glenn Ross trying to win that set of steak knives.
Nelson Algren would shake his head over Mamet's newfound affection for society's overdogs if he were around today. Algren never went Hollywood like Mamet has. He died poor and mostly unrecognized. But he also never demeaned himself by writing tracts to bring comfort to the already comfortable, parroting their catch phrases and adopting their sneering condescension. "Free market! Free market!" Mamet screeches, as if such a thing ever existed in a pristine, uncorrupted state. Never once does Mamet stop to consider that the "The Free Market" favors no one so much as the gangster in its disdain for the law. Mamet even has the chutzpah to idealize the shoot 'em up Chicago of his youth as an example of a "free market" - conveniently forgetting that Machine Politics resembles a free market only if you happen to be the Mayor's brother-in-law.
For everyone else it's a goddam slave state.
This is a very stupid book. It reverberates with the sound of a man talking only to himself...and maybe his rabbi, looking for a pat on the head. I sincerely hope that Mamet will submit himself to some form of debate as he goes on the road to sell this book. The ideas in "The Secret Knowledge" cannot stand the light of day, nor the force of honest argument. If Mamet is forced to defend his ideas against any foe with similar skills of articulation (I would pay money to see him debate David Simon), he will be laughed out of auditoriums from Bangor to Malibu. Too bad Studs Terkel is not around to take Mamet to the woodshed. Studs knew a thing or two about Chicago street-corners, too - and he knew a hustle when he saw one. No one begrudges a guy for getting old and wanting to kiss the ring of Power, but the tough guy talk starts wearing thin when it's coming from the backseat of a limousine.
I only made it through the first third of the book before I started skimming (just to make sure there wasn't a "surprise" shift in tone), but even in the first third there is an astounding amount of absurdity. My two personal favorites: (1) The assumption that the "Liberal" is disdainful of work. Perhaps Mamet should take a look at the statistics before making such a sweeping statement. If he did, he would realize that a majority of working-class Americans and a majority of Americans associated with labor unions affiliate themselves with the Democratic party. Mamet's proposal that Liberals hate Sarah Palin because she's a worker is laughable. (2) Mamet's dismissal of a liberal arts education. Mamet seems to think that a liberal arts education is useless because it doesn't prepare you to be useful in the "market." Mamet, of all people, as a successful playwright, should understand the value of a liberal arts education. I suppose he doesn't see the irony when he dismisses the liberal arts and then quotes Gertrude Stein and Shakespeare.
Mamet makes a very telling comment about his writing early on: "And the job, my job, as a dramatist, was not to write accurately, but to write persuasively." Mamet seems to think that this philosophy (questionable as it is for a dramatist) is also applicable to his non-fiction writing: just make things up and sound persuasive. There's nothing enlightening here, no secret knowledge, just the same Conservative talking points.
--CBB in NYC
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