May 14, 2011
"I'm the troublemaker. That's my role in life. I'm the class clown..."
I recommend Converting Mamet: A playwright's progress by Andrew Ferguson:
..."They were highly polemical, angry books," [Rabbi Mordecai] Finley said. "They were very big on sympathy and compassion but really they weren't"—he looked for the word—"they simply weren't logically coherent. And Dave [Mamet] is very logical in his thinking. Dave thought What's the Matter with Kansas? had the answer for why people could even think to vote for a Republican—it's because they're duped by capitalist fat cats. I tried to tell him that people really weren't that stupid. They just have other interests, other values. They're values voters.
"That's one thing he began to see: The left flattens people, reduces people to financial interests. Dave's an artist. He knew people are deeper than that."
Before long, when Finley didn't budge, the books from Mamet stopped arriving, and Finley asked if he could send Mamet some books too. One of the first was A Conflict of Visions, by Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution. In it Sowell expands on the difference between the "constrained vision" of human nature—close to the tragic view that infuses Mamet's greatest plays—and the "unconstrained vision" of man's endless improvement that suffused Mamet's politics and the politics of his profession and social class.
"He came back to me stunned. He said, 'This is incredible!' He said, 'Who thinks like this? Who are these people?' I said, 'Republicans think like this.' He said, 'Amazing.'"...
...When I pushed him on the subject, he started talking about Jon Voight, another show business Republican.
One day Voight handed him Witness, the Cold War memoir by the Communist-turned-anti-Communist Whittaker Chambers.
"This book will change your life," Voight told Mamet.
"And he was right," Mamet said. "It had a huge effect on me. Forcing yourself into a new way of thinking about things is a wrenching experience. But first you have to look back and atone. You think, 'Oh my god, what have I done? What was I thinking?' You realize you've been a co-dependent with the herd. And then, when you decide to say what you've discovered, out loud, you take the risk that everyone you know will look on you as a fool."
Sitting on an overstuffed sofa in his office, he threw up his hands.
"But what the hell," he said. "I'm the troublemaker. That's my role in life. I'm the class clown."...
Posted by John Weidner at May 14, 2011 7:40 PM