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November 30: David Mamet

Lawrence Bush
November 30, 2016

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (in 1984, for Glengarry Glen Ross) David Mamet was born in Chicago on this date in 1947. Through such plays as Sexual Perversion in Chicago (1974), American Buffalo (1975), Glengarry Glen Ross (1983) and Oleanna (1992), Mamet became associated in public consciousness with a dialogue style filled with interruptions, street smarts, and biting animosity. Several of his plays have been turned into successful films, and he has also made his mark as the screenwriter of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), The Verdict (1982), House of Games (which he also directed, in 1987), and many other movies. In 2006, Mamet wrote an inciteful (and embarrassing) book about Jewish self-hatred, The Wicked Son, in which he excoriated cosmopolitan, liberal Jews for their supposed illusions, and in 2008 he wrote a Village Voice article headlined, “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal,’ ” which marked a radical shift rightwards in his politics, much of it based on his perception of leftwing and international anti-Semitism.

“In my family, in the days prior to television, we liked to while away the evenings by making ourselves miserable, based solely on our ability to speak the language viciously. That’s probably where my ability was honed.” --David Mamet

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.