The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture

David Mamet. Penguin/Sentinel, $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-59523-076-8
American playwright and filmmaker Mamet is a wide-ranging author (including children's stories, a volume of verse, and even a graphic novel), but he excels at the coolly acerbic essay, which best shows off his contrarian streak. This set of short, informal essays elaborate on his recent political awakening from "brain-dead" liberalism, a foray into what used to be called the culture wars. It feels a couple of decades tardy and, despite its author's characteristically terse yet pensive prose, too at-the-knee of the usual neoconservative icons, including Hayek. The title refers to the privileged patterns of initiation into the worldview of the "Liberal Left" Mamet ridicules, often by analogy to adolescent naïveté. But he replaces one set of talking points with another: the familiar argot about free markets, inveighing against any opposition to Israel as anti-Semitism, and the "liberal" attempt to bankrupt us all. Mamet still wields the colorful anecdote and unexpected analogy, and his narrative holds most interest when straying back to his turf on movie sets and theater stages. But as an avenging apostate of liberalism, Mamet offers nothing new. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/11/2011
Release date: 06/01/2011
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