cover image Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch

Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch

David Mamet. Broadside, $28.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-315899-3

Pulitzer-winning playwright Mamet (The Secret Knowledge) mixes political and cultural commentary in these pugnacious if undercooked essays written during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Though Mamet’s incisive wit and sharp turns-of-phrase are on display, they’re employed in the service of typical right-wing talking points about how universities, the mainstream media, unions, and “elected leaders on the coasts” have “conspired to divide and conquer” America. The most cogent pieces include “Demotic, a Confession,” in which Mamet expresses regret at his involvement in the 1970s counterculture, and “Humility,” which reflects on the habits of aging writers (“exuberance, once exhausted, is not seen again”). Elsewhere, Mamet delivers a near-incoherent screed against the “envenomed prigs” who expect theater audiences to “drag themselves... to pediatric lectures on diversity,” and laments the lack of middle-class housing in Los Angeles and New York City while contending that “there is no way to reverse the trend of commerce.” Though the cultural criticism occasionally hits the mark, the collection’s scattershot quality and grumpy politics will try the patience of all but the most dedicated Mamet fan. These tossed-off musings are more tiresome than edifying. (Mar.)