web site hit counter Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama

Availability: Ready to download

The purpose of theater, like magic like religion… is to inspire cleansing awe. With bracing directness and aphoristic authority, one of our greatest living playwrights addresses the questions: What makes good drama? And why does drama matter in an age that is awash in information and entertainment? David Mamet believes that the tendency to dramatize is essential to human n The purpose of theater, like magic like religion… is to inspire cleansing awe. With bracing directness and aphoristic authority, one of our greatest living playwrights addresses the questions: What makes good drama? And why does drama matter in an age that is awash in information and entertainment? David Mamet believes that the tendency to dramatize is essential to human nature, that we create drama out of everything from today’s weather to next year’s elections. But the highest expression of this drive remains the theater.          With a cultural range that encompasses Shakespeare, Bretcht, and Ibsen, Death of a Salesman and Bad Day at Black Rock, Mamet shows us how to distinguish true drama from its false variants. He considers the impossibly difficult progression between one act and the next and the mysterious function of the soliloquy. The result, in Three Uses of the Knife, is an electrifying treatise on the playwright’s art that is also a strikingly original work of moral and aesthetic philosophy. 


Compare

The purpose of theater, like magic like religion… is to inspire cleansing awe. With bracing directness and aphoristic authority, one of our greatest living playwrights addresses the questions: What makes good drama? And why does drama matter in an age that is awash in information and entertainment? David Mamet believes that the tendency to dramatize is essential to human n The purpose of theater, like magic like religion… is to inspire cleansing awe. With bracing directness and aphoristic authority, one of our greatest living playwrights addresses the questions: What makes good drama? And why does drama matter in an age that is awash in information and entertainment? David Mamet believes that the tendency to dramatize is essential to human nature, that we create drama out of everything from today’s weather to next year’s elections. But the highest expression of this drive remains the theater.          With a cultural range that encompasses Shakespeare, Bretcht, and Ibsen, Death of a Salesman and Bad Day at Black Rock, Mamet shows us how to distinguish true drama from its false variants. He considers the impossibly difficult progression between one act and the next and the mysterious function of the soliloquy. The result, in Three Uses of the Knife, is an electrifying treatise on the playwright’s art that is also a strikingly original work of moral and aesthetic philosophy. 

30 review for Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    This book is a bit of a muddle--Mamet constantly moves back and forth between different ideas without any real cohesiveness--but there are a couple of great ideas in this book on the nature of drama. The best one I think is when he talks about the difficulty of writing 2nd Acts, that writing second acts is a bit like living 2nd acts; in order to write the mid-life crisis, you have live through the mid-life crisis, which many people are loathe to do. They want to write the script without having t This book is a bit of a muddle--Mamet constantly moves back and forth between different ideas without any real cohesiveness--but there are a couple of great ideas in this book on the nature of drama. The best one I think is when he talks about the difficulty of writing 2nd Acts, that writing second acts is a bit like living 2nd acts; in order to write the mid-life crisis, you have live through the mid-life crisis, which many people are loathe to do. They want to write the script without having to go through the pain that the characters in the story experience—and yet that is exactly what they must do. This is pretty much the same idea that he talks about in his book on acting, “True & False.” And yet I think it’s even more important in the field of writing. A lot of actors become actors because they are already masochists—they want to be hurt, they want to relive prior hurts. Whereas I know a lot of writers who don’t realize that to be a writer of any dramatic narrative means being a sado-masochist. You must be sadistic to your characters, put them through hell—and then experience what those characters are feelings, i.e. be masochistic. I think Mamet as a writer is much more of a sadist than he is as a masochist and that’s why you get some terrific drama in his plays and films but not a lot of “feeling” from these characters. Ah well. We can’t all be Shakespeare. In the meantime, we can write essays on writing, or write reviews on essays on writing. But I should go back to the real writing. Please excuse me, I have a few darlings to kill.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Isabella González

    There was interesting trivia in this book but overall I found it to be rambling and incoherent. The second section was so jumbled that it reminded me of the paragraphs created by the predictive texting game on the smartphone.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Stacy

    First published in 1998, "Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama," by David Mamet, is a short, pithy, excellent read. Mamet is a renowned playwright and screenwriter, though I admit I have never seen any of his work. He's won a Pulitzer Prize for his plays, Tony nominations, and many other awards and acclaim. "Three Uses of the Knife" is not a how-to book about craft. It's a summary of Mamet's thoughts about why plays exist -- why theater exists -- and what the audience gets First published in 1998, "Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama," by David Mamet, is a short, pithy, excellent read. Mamet is a renowned playwright and screenwriter, though I admit I have never seen any of his work. He's won a Pulitzer Prize for his plays, Tony nominations, and many other awards and acclaim. "Three Uses of the Knife" is not a how-to book about craft. It's a summary of Mamet's thoughts about why plays exist -- why theater exists -- and what the audience gets out of it. This book is entertaining as hell. It's extremely dark and grim. From what I know of Mamet's work, this is much to be expected. Here are some quotes that stood out to me that I thought I would share, and comment on: "Myth, religion, and tragedy approach our insecurity somewhat differently. They awaken awe. They do not deny our powerlessness, but through its avowal they free us of the burden of its repression." (pg 15) ^^This is not true for everyone, but I can easily understand how it is true for some. "We step onto the car dealer's lot to play out a drama. It is our infrequent opportunity to be made much of, to be courted. We don't want to hear about the design of the engine, we want to hear how smart we are." (pg 23) ^^This is not true for me, but I know for many people this is exactly the case. "The purpose of art is to delight us: certain men and women (no smarter than you or I) whose art can delight us have been given dispensation from going out and fetching water and carrying wood. It's no more elaborate than that." (pg 26) ^^I would say this is the purpose of entertainment, not art. But Mamet and I drastically differ that way. "We all have a myth and we all live by a myth. That's what we live for. Part of the hero journey is that the hero (artist/protagonist) has to change her understanding completely, whether through the force of circumstance (which happens more often in drama) or through the force of will (which happens more often in tragedy). The hero must revamp her thinking about the world. And this revamping can lead to great art." (pg 38) ^^Yes, I completely agree. "For much of our lives we are mired in an inability to frankly regard the middle term, to admit we have made a wrong turning [sic], to return (so we might think) to the beginning of our struggle for knowledge. We tend to elect, rather, to continue in error." (pg 42) ^^Very true, and delightfully put. "Our Defense Department exists neither to 'maintain our place in the world' nor to 'provide security against external threats.' It exists because we are willing to squander all -- wealth, youth, life, peace, honor, everything -- to defend ourselves against feelings of our own worthlessness, our own powerlessness." (pg 44-45) ^^I agree and disagree. Mamet moves into an entirely theoretical land regarding lived reality that I know is untrue. I can't ignore lived reality to the extent that he does. I know that he is certainly sharing truth with this statement, but it isn't the whole truth. The disagreement I have with him here is no small thing, since the statement quoted above gets at what he thinks the purpose of drama is: to free people from the burden of repressing their powerlessness and worthlessness. Being free from the burden of repression, to Mamet, is completely different from "forgetting" all knowledge of one's own worthlessness, since forgetting the truth, to Mamet, is simply another form of repression -- "Art, which exists to bring [the audience member internal, personal] peace, becomes entertainment, which exists to divert, and is becoming totalitarianism, which exists to censor and control. The desire to express becomes, absent the artist and in the face of the terrifying, the need to repress. The 'information age' is the creation, by the body politic, through the collective unconscious, of a mechanism of repression, a mechanism that offers us a diversion from our knowledge of our own worthlessness." (pg 53) ^^How much you agree or disagree with Mamet's conclusion here might determine how much you enjoy reading this book. Personally, I don't agree that this is always true, or always true for all people, but I find him highly entertaining to read, nonetheless. "But a play is not about nice things happening to nice people. A play is about rather terrible things happening to people who are as nice or not nice as we ourselves are." (pg 67-68) ^^Heck yes. There are plenty of statements in this book that I 100% agree with. Especially the final lines of this book, which are brilliant: "At the End of the Play, when we had, it seemed, exhausted all possible avenues of investigation, when we were without recourse or resource (or so it seemed), when we were all but powerless, all was made whole. It was made whole when the truth came out. At that point, then, in the well-wrought play (and perhaps in the honestly examined life), we will understand that what seemed accidental was essential, we will perceive the pattern wrought by our character, we will be free to sigh or mourn. And then we can go home." (pg 79-80) ^^Yes, yes. Amen. Overall, this is an engaging book to read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading about drama, and to anyone who is a writer, no matter what kind of writing you do. Five stars. Great fun.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Feliks

    Better than his other treatises which I have so far encountered. This is pithier, more succinct and straightforward. Mamet dissects concepts of drama and the psychological interplay taking place between the playwright and the audience. The only flaw is where Mamet cannot curb his tendency to pontificate and generalize about political matters. He is bent on aligning the spectacle of politics with that of the stage. This theorizing dominates Chapter II (there's only three chapters) but the writing Better than his other treatises which I have so far encountered. This is pithier, more succinct and straightforward. Mamet dissects concepts of drama and the psychological interplay taking place between the playwright and the audience. The only flaw is where Mamet cannot curb his tendency to pontificate and generalize about political matters. He is bent on aligning the spectacle of politics with that of the stage. This theorizing dominates Chapter II (there's only three chapters) but the writing is brisk and light and its not too bad. Warning: there's no concrete technical tips for aspiring authors, playwrights, librettists, thespians, dramaturgists, or scenarists to derive from this little tract; its far too generalized in its aims. It's not a book about stagecraft. Actually --at the end of the read--I'm not quite sure what Mamet's motivation was in writing this at all. Seems like the man just wanted to get some ideas of his, crystallized and refracted. The blessed aspect of it is the brevity. Only 96 pages or so, what a relief! Overall: vaguely useful at a macro-level of thought.

  5. 4 out of 5

    James

    Finished this book two minutes ago and my head is swimming. At times confusing with its philosophical pondering, at times crystal clear with its direct anecdotes and playful metaphors, it's easily one of the best books on drama I've read. It condenses so much thought into just 81 pages, yet refuses to simply be a "here is how it's done" sort of book. Finished this book two minutes ago and my head is swimming. At times confusing with its philosophical pondering, at times crystal clear with its direct anecdotes and playful metaphors, it's easily one of the best books on drama I've read. It condenses so much thought into just 81 pages, yet refuses to simply be a "here is how it's done" sort of book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Charles Velasquez

    This book is many things at once (I suppose it's three things, considering it's split into three acts/parts). The first portion is a pretty straightforward explanation of the writing process - as I was reading that section, I was tempted to review it with "Save the Cat with terms like anti-Stratfordians" - but then it turns into a rumination on why we make art in the first place. And that was the part where the book got to me. Because in the middle, there's a sub-section where he talks about the This book is many things at once (I suppose it's three things, considering it's split into three acts/parts). The first portion is a pretty straightforward explanation of the writing process - as I was reading that section, I was tempted to review it with "Save the Cat with terms like anti-Stratfordians" - but then it turns into a rumination on why we make art in the first place. And that was the part where the book got to me. Because in the middle, there's a sub-section where he talks about the difference between art and commerce (obviously) but he goes deeper and talks about how people fool themselves into thinking that they're writers when in fact they're entrepreneurs and now having worked in Hollywood for a few years now really synthesized my views on some people who work out here. When writers, aspiring and working these days, set out to write a script, it is almost never that they think of how to write something with artistic worth. It's a simple calculation really - what sells, and how do I make the most sellable version of that thing. It's even worse when it comes to BIPOC "writers", because what sells for them is versions of their inherited or personal trauma, which I suppose is more artistic than yet another true-crime drama, but it's still just a commodity, not a piece of art, no matter how these people spin it for themselves. And this whole diatribe is big talk for David Mamet, a guy who created and ran a cop show for however many years, but he's right nonetheless. The third part of the book moves past art entirely and dives into how to lead a fulfilling life as it relates to art, or something like that. Solid book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Megan Miller

    Okay, well. I'm glad this book was short. But honestly, it was really good for me to read this. I disagreed with an awful lot of it, but I think it was helpful. Sometimes reading things you disagree with helps you better articulate what you actually think. Overall, Mamet lifts theatre/drama up to a height that it cannot hold itself up to. He almost worships it - holding it up with religion and magic and the Bible. He says art should bring peace and "inspire cleansing awe". Can anything but Jesus Okay, well. I'm glad this book was short. But honestly, it was really good for me to read this. I disagreed with an awful lot of it, but I think it was helpful. Sometimes reading things you disagree with helps you better articulate what you actually think. Overall, Mamet lifts theatre/drama up to a height that it cannot hold itself up to. He almost worships it - holding it up with religion and magic and the Bible. He says art should bring peace and "inspire cleansing awe". Can anything but Jesus bring us those things? This book felt, in a nutshell, like idolatry and atheism cloaked in overly-fancy language and wandering trains of thought. Seriously, there were so many times he phrased things just as eloquently and snobbily as he could. Or that's how it felt on this end. There are authors who use lovely words for the sake of their loveliness, because they are infatuated with the beauty of language as God's gift to us. And there are those who use lovely words for the sake of how intelligent they sound. Second-handers who are more concerned with lecturing or impressing than sharing their joy in a thing. That felt like this whole book. And there were so many incomplete thoughts he left dangling as if assuming every reader would understand the rest of his thought, leaving any reader that doesn't understand feeling foolish or out-of-place. There were bits I liked. Sentences and small sections where I was like, "Yes!" (I'll share some quotes below.) But overall... this is a vision of drama that really needs a lesson from the Storyteller. I don't necessarily agree full-heartedly with these, but they struck me: "The demand of immediate gratification is death for any art which takes place over time. That the audience be teased, disappointed, reassured, frightened, and finally freed is the essence of dramatic/musical form. It is only... garbage that 'makes us feel good all the time.' " "Dramatic art raises the creators and the viewers to the status of communicants. We who made it, formed it, saw it, went through something together, now we are veterans. Now we are friends." "We cannot gamble enough to find peace, eat enough to be thin, arm ourselves or strut enough to feel secure." "But life is not simple, the truth is not simple, true art is not simple. True art is as deep and convoluted and various as the minds and souls of the human beings who create it." (I feel like a really long and interesting discussion could be had based on just this sentence.)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sue Burke

    Mamet describes the nature and purpose of drama with authority, but in a disjointed way, skipping from one topic to another and back again as if he has too many ideas at once. He explains how drama is natural for all of us, how we all want to be heros, and how we can misuse drama to make ourselves into God or otherwise pervert art. We can treat politics as theater rather than as a means of governance. As he skips from topic to topic, he drops gems that, if true, should make us all uneasy. For exam Mamet describes the nature and purpose of drama with authority, but in a disjointed way, skipping from one topic to another and back again as if he has too many ideas at once. He explains how drama is natural for all of us, how we all want to be heros, and how we can misuse drama to make ourselves into God or otherwise pervert art. We can treat politics as theater rather than as a means of governance. As he skips from topic to topic, he drops gems that, if true, should make us all uneasy. For example: “In politics as in drama, the false task, the easy task, is often denominated the difficult and noble quest. It is easier to throw good money after bad, at times, than to admit one was wrong, misguided, arrogant, foolish. But these are problems of the second act.” The difficult task, he says, is, “How can I live my life in this disappointing, unpredictable, and at times loathsome world?” But who would get elected with a promise to disappoint? If you want to learn how to write a play, this isn’t the ideal book, although you’ll find a few ideas worth thinking about. If you want to understand the world, this book will give you a lot to think about.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gowri

    A treatise on the nature and purpose of drama sounds like a textbook for film and literature students. And that is what I expected it to be, only to find out it is essential reading for any one who thinks deeply about the nature of the human mind and how we perceive and engage with the world. Mamet's style is pithy; he is incisive in his observations and speaks with authority as he deconstructs his observations on humans, society, the elements of politics, art, entertainment, advertising, how we A treatise on the nature and purpose of drama sounds like a textbook for film and literature students. And that is what I expected it to be, only to find out it is essential reading for any one who thinks deeply about the nature of the human mind and how we perceive and engage with the world. Mamet's style is pithy; he is incisive in his observations and speaks with authority as he deconstructs his observations on humans, society, the elements of politics, art, entertainment, advertising, how we navigate the world, using the lens of theatre and drama. The book is structured neatly into three parts, fitting into them a compact narrative that builds up like a three-act play. Mamet wastes no space or words here. He plunges deep into his observations right off the bat. Naturally, the book started slow for me. I was thrown into a depth that I wasn't prepared for. At the flick of a hand, he references plays, films, epics, political events, tools and techniques of theatre and you may begin to doubt if he is going to ramble. Hardly so. Every reference (if you are familiar with it) is well-placed and every inference has the appearance of a well-cooked meal. I found myself reading every sentence at least thrice - once to absorb what was said, twice to make sure I understood it the way the author intended, and the third time to relish the thought and assign it to memory as best as I could. Every line is a gem and you can tell that it has been mined out of years of personal experience and observation of a thoughtful mind. Once I got accustomed to the pace and depth, I took my pencil out and started to enjoy the read. I scribbled notes all across the margin space and underlined almost half the book. I might underline the rest when I reread it. This is a book that celebrates drama while sharing deep insights into our motivations and drives, what makes us tick, what liberates us from involuntary submission and invites us to rise above compulsions, to a state where we celebrate the natural makeup of our mind while acknowledging our powerlessness, to create and engage with art. "The excess of ability/energy/skill/strength/love is expressed in species-specific ways. In goats it is leaping, in humans it is making art." In holding drama and art as sacred, he reminds us that it is not in our nature not to make art. Unless we choose not to exercise our will.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ugh

    This is a gem. Mamet expounds pithily on drama in art and life, and I found a profundity of things to ponder. It reminded me of In Praise of Shadows in terms of its brevity, intelligence, clarity and originality. That's not to say I agreed with all of it: Mamet takes a very narrow view of art, saying "The purpose of art is to not to change but to delight" and "I don't believe reaching people is the purpose of art" and "the conscious mind cannot create art" and that what people want from art is p This is a gem. Mamet expounds pithily on drama in art and life, and I found a profundity of things to ponder. It reminded me of In Praise of Shadows in terms of its brevity, intelligence, clarity and originality. That's not to say I agreed with all of it: Mamet takes a very narrow view of art, saying "The purpose of art is to not to change but to delight" and "I don't believe reaching people is the purpose of art" and "the conscious mind cannot create art" and that what people want from art is peace, which can only be achieved by "acknowledging our sinful, weak, impotent state". If all art had to be about acknowledging our weak impotence, there wouldn't be a need for much of it, would there? And with what would people like Mamet who have already accepted human weakness as fact fill their days and nourish their souls? But none of this detracts from the book's density of brilliance, especially for anyone interested in writing fiction and/or struggling with how life should be lived. I read all of it before even getting home from the bookshop, having read about half of it before buying it, but still consider it well worth the purchase: I expect to reread it in the not-distant future.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cara M

    Often contradictory and yet uncannily insightful at the same time, which, I suppose is his point. :D In terms of writing advice, the thing I will take with me is this: "The true drama, and especially the tragedy, calls for the hero to exercize will, to create, in front of us, on the stage, his or her own character, the strength to continue. It is her striving to understand, to correctly assess, to face her own character (in her choice of battles) that inspires us--and gives the drama power to clea Often contradictory and yet uncannily insightful at the same time, which, I suppose is his point. :D In terms of writing advice, the thing I will take with me is this: "The true drama, and especially the tragedy, calls for the hero to exercize will, to create, in front of us, on the stage, his or her own character, the strength to continue. It is her striving to understand, to correctly assess, to face her own character (in her choice of battles) that inspires us--and gives the drama power to cleanse and enrich our own character. This is the struggle of the second act." I.e. The choices of your try-fail cycles in act 2 are meant to reveal and develop character. And more importantly and far more clearly, to challenge character, to pit inclination against desire and see what wins.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brian Kohl

    First read this year because it's so very short. Three polarizing lectures which are refreshingly grouchy about all attempts to educate or inform through entertainment (although Mamet pays lip service to all our current shibboleths as well). In case you hadn't noticed, informing through entertainment (propagandizing) is the holy grail of lit these days (e.g., #morediversebooksplease). First read this year because it's so very short. Three polarizing lectures which are refreshingly grouchy about all attempts to educate or inform through entertainment (although Mamet pays lip service to all our current shibboleths as well). In case you hadn't noticed, informing through entertainment (propagandizing) is the holy grail of lit these days (e.g., #morediversebooksplease).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Perry

    Good news is, I don't need to read another David Mamet book. I can get my pretentious bullshit elsewhere. Good news is, I don't need to read another David Mamet book. I can get my pretentious bullshit elsewhere.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Maas

    Was a fan of David Mamet before, a bigger fan now Though this book takes a few pages to get into, once you are in - you are in. David Mamet doesn't just give us his musings on the theater, he gets to the heart of drama. Why do we have it? What is its purpose? What's the purpose of art? And he answers it all fairly well, though of course in doing so brings up a few questions. This book is not for those looking for how to write like Mamet, or to gain any insight into his plays/movies. This book is for Was a fan of David Mamet before, a bigger fan now Though this book takes a few pages to get into, once you are in - you are in. David Mamet doesn't just give us his musings on the theater, he gets to the heart of drama. Why do we have it? What is its purpose? What's the purpose of art? And he answers it all fairly well, though of course in doing so brings up a few questions. This book is not for those looking for how to write like Mamet, or to gain any insight into his plays/movies. This book is for those who want to ask the bigger questions - what is drama? What is art? Why do we have these things?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Stark

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Well. Here i find myself in the uncomfortable position of thinking Mamet is wrong. Only in a tiny little spot, but it's distressing nonetheless. It's when he says that the drama is an inferior way of "reaching" or teaching things to an audience. And, that if the desire is to "change people's attitudes and make them see the world in a new light," he recommends one stick to that "great and very, very effective tool," the gun. To be really frank, I don't think Mamet is wrong about this, I'm afraid I Well. Here i find myself in the uncomfortable position of thinking Mamet is wrong. Only in a tiny little spot, but it's distressing nonetheless. It's when he says that the drama is an inferior way of "reaching" or teaching things to an audience. And, that if the desire is to "change people's attitudes and make them see the world in a new light," he recommends one stick to that "great and very, very effective tool," the gun. To be really frank, I don't think Mamet is wrong about this, I'm afraid I know he is. Mamet, in supporting his point, peppers his argument with "factual" assertions such as the below: A puppy who won't respond to the command "come" can and will return to the master if the master falls down and lies still. The puppy will come trotting back. Why? Because it thinks its dominator is incapacitated. and it now has a chance to kill. The puppy comes back joyfully, as it is getting a free chance to exercise its most prized survival skills. He brings this up in support of: The drama excites us as it recapitulates and calls into play the most essential element of our being, our prized adaptive mechanism [storytelling:]. All sentiment puppy-wise aside, this simply isn't the truth about how dogs and wolves survive -- as part of packs led by "masters," i.e. alphas. When their alpha lies still, it's not in the canids' adaptive best interest to run over and gleefully slaughter him, but rather to come see if he's OK, and revive him if possible. The alpha of the pack isn't just its "oppressor" -- that role has come about as a method for facing the environment that has worked for the survival of those particular species. It looks ugly to humans, the hierarchical structure in nature. I have had a hard time dealing with the affront to my moral aesthetic which is the violence and fascist savagery of chickens, in particular. But, no matter what I think of it, it makes chickens survive. Just so, as Mamet so rightly points out, telling each other stories makes humans survive. Precisely because it "changes people's attitudes." Changed "attitudes" cause changed behaviors to arise. There is no other function to "attitudes." And to change them is a legitimate function of "the drama." So, I kind of want to rip my face off when he frames his relationship to the audience in terms of inferiority/superiority -- primarily to claim that he, Mamet, doesn't feel superior to them, of course. a) Bullshit b) Because to frame it so is needless. A person who has found out a piece of information he believes to be factual, and finds useful, and wishes to relay to his fellow -- isn't "superior" to someone who may not have found that information out yet. It's weird to think of it that way. Unless you want to go back to the original, concrete meaning of "superior" -- "above," as in "positioned higher in 3-d space relative to another object," as in "uphill from." Then, you get a picture of knowledge as heavy like water, and wanting to flow downhill to where it isn't yet. Which seems to make a lot more sense than the image of possessors of knowledge as "better" than the rest of us, like kings. And, in this image, the "dramatist" -- becomes, at most, the path the knowledge takes between the rocks, the knowledge carves him, and not the other way around, and that is why, Mamet himself starts this conversation with It is in our nature to dramatize, but I think he falls short of all the consequences to a writer's ego that this truly implies. Humans, along with the inheritance, the nature, of lusting after as much power and status as they can possibly grab -- also possess the gift of perceiving that hierarchy, inequality, injustice -- are morally ugly . Notice. That being said, the rest of the book is fucking brilliant, especially the regarding the definitions and interrelationship between such concepts as: the conscious mind, the compulsion to repeat behaviors which repress emotion precisely BECAUSE they fail, the subconscious, and "art." Some tidbits my own personal ego doesn't compel me to pick apart: Artists don't wonder "What is it good for?" They aren't driven to "create art," or to "help people," or to "make money." They are driven to lessen the burden of the unbearable disparity between their conscious and unconscious minds, and so to achieve peace. When they make art, their nonrational synthesis has the power to bring us peace. The avant-garde is to the left what jingoism is to the right. Both are a refuge in nonsense. And the warm glow of fashion on the left and patriotism on the right evidence individuals' comfort in their power to elect themselves members of a group superior to reason. Oh, OK. I think I know what to do with my 30s now. Thanks Mamet.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan Fowler

    I have no idea how to rate this because frankly I didn’t understand a word of it. My recommendation: skip this and instead watch his truly wonderful MasterClass lectures, in which he discusses the exact same concepts but in plain English.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This book took me a long time to read relative to its length. That was due, in part, to the book's density of ideas. It reminded me of one of those spiritual guidance books that have at most one paragraph per page, written with the intention of a reader's reading just one page at a time, closing the book, and thinking about what they have read. While Mamet does subdivide the book into chapters, and each chapter into a few sub-chapters, even the sub-chapters go off into a variety of directions, e This book took me a long time to read relative to its length. That was due, in part, to the book's density of ideas. It reminded me of one of those spiritual guidance books that have at most one paragraph per page, written with the intention of a reader's reading just one page at a time, closing the book, and thinking about what they have read. While Mamet does subdivide the book into chapters, and each chapter into a few sub-chapters, even the sub-chapters go off into a variety of directions, each of which is probably best considered on its own. As far as content goes -- Mamet delivers a conservative take on drama while tackling a variety of modern phenomena (e.g. his comments about the "problem play" and why it doesn't work). His voice is, as usual, forceful and authoritative. It's hard -- especially for people well-versed with Mamet's canon -- not to spots moments of seeming hypocrisy; even David Mamet himself cannot always live up to the extremely high standards he sets in this book. I was on the fence about giving this book 4 or 5 stars, but there were so many moments throughout the book where I read a sentence or passage, said "wow," put the book down, and actually thought about what I had read for a while that I ended up with 5. Though the copy I read I checked out from a library, I will certainly be buying my own copy to read again and mark up (it's so hard not to mark this book up).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Soph

    David Mamet gives a frank, funny, and fierce description of what drama is and what it isn't. His insights go beyond how to write, or act, or direct, and into who we are and why we do. Read The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell if you want to know what the "Monomyth" is, then read this and see why and how we live it everyday. Flipping to a random page we have this "Dramatists who aim to change the world assume a moral superiority to the audience and allow the audience to assume a mora David Mamet gives a frank, funny, and fierce description of what drama is and what it isn't. His insights go beyond how to write, or act, or direct, and into who we are and why we do. Read The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell if you want to know what the "Monomyth" is, then read this and see why and how we live it everyday. Flipping to a random page we have this "Dramatists who aim to change the world assume a moral superiority to the audience and allow the audience to assume a moral superiority to those people in the play who don't accept the views of the hero." Or on another page: "He [Hitchcock] understood that the dramatic goal is _generic_. It is need not be more specific than: the Maltese Falcon, the Letters of Transit, the Secret Documents. It is sufficient for the protagonist-author to know the worth of the MacGuffin. The less specific the qualities of the MacGuffin are, the more interested the audience will be. Why? Because a loose abstraction allows audience members to project their own desires onto an essentially featureless goal. Just as they do the terms Americanism, or A Better Life, or Tomorrow." I read it in one sitting. Twice.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lewis Manalo

    In a word: convoluted. Through his premise of describing the use and purpose of drama, Mamet hops from classic drama to psychology to bad tv to politics to blues music and back again, and the reader's never sure what his opinions are of any of it. For example, when he writes about the big speeches that come at the end of every second act he seems annoyed that they're there, but then he notes the greatness of the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V. There is some valuable information to be extrac In a word: convoluted. Through his premise of describing the use and purpose of drama, Mamet hops from classic drama to psychology to bad tv to politics to blues music and back again, and the reader's never sure what his opinions are of any of it. For example, when he writes about the big speeches that come at the end of every second act he seems annoyed that they're there, but then he notes the greatness of the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V. There is some valuable information to be extracted from this mess, but I have to wonder if the David Mamet of today, who's produced an action-packed television show and who's made the conversion to Conservativism, would still hold the same opinions that he jotted down in seeming stream of consciousness in 1998.

  20. 4 out of 5

    catechism

    It's possible I hated this book because it wasn't what I was expecting it to be, and that if I had picked it up wanting to read about Mamet's cynicism about pretty much everything else, I would've enjoyed it just fine. But I wanted to read about, you know, the nature and purpose of drama, and it really didn't deliver. Also I didn't find it particularly well-written; it jumped all over the place seemingly at random and just. Frankly, I probably would have had more fun poking myself in the eye wit It's possible I hated this book because it wasn't what I was expecting it to be, and that if I had picked it up wanting to read about Mamet's cynicism about pretty much everything else, I would've enjoyed it just fine. But I wanted to read about, you know, the nature and purpose of drama, and it really didn't deliver. Also I didn't find it particularly well-written; it jumped all over the place seemingly at random and just. Frankly, I probably would have had more fun poking myself in the eye with rusty nails.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I found this useful, and surprisingly dense given its brevity. It's a rumination on what makes the three act structure powerful (or not), and the value of theatre and, by extension, art. Goes onto a bit of a political/ideological tangent in part 2, but otherwise very good. There are some especially good ideas about writing that's generated from thoughts (as opposed to feelings). I also liked the notion that a good writer is someone who keeps what others would throw away and throws away what other I found this useful, and surprisingly dense given its brevity. It's a rumination on what makes the three act structure powerful (or not), and the value of theatre and, by extension, art. Goes onto a bit of a political/ideological tangent in part 2, but otherwise very good. There are some especially good ideas about writing that's generated from thoughts (as opposed to feelings). I also liked the notion that a good writer is someone who keeps what others would throw away and throws away what others would keep.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carac Allison

    I think 99.9 percent of the books about writing are dishonest and dangerous. But if you want to learn about plot I believe there are two worthy of your time. The first is, naturally, Aristotle's "Poetics". And the second is Mamet's "Three Uses of the Knife". In this slim tome America's poet of fuck lays out how plots have evolved and how they work. He explains our human need for stories and why writers have always been vital to our understanding and culture. Good luck finding a copy. But if you d I think 99.9 percent of the books about writing are dishonest and dangerous. But if you want to learn about plot I believe there are two worthy of your time. The first is, naturally, Aristotle's "Poetics". And the second is Mamet's "Three Uses of the Knife". In this slim tome America's poet of fuck lays out how plots have evolved and how they work. He explains our human need for stories and why writers have always been vital to our understanding and culture. Good luck finding a copy. But if you do cherish it. Carac

  23. 4 out of 5

    Troy Neujahr

    A brilliant, penetrating, and brief dive into the nature and purpose of drama. Mamet does not eschew drama, but begins by explaining its function in everyday life. As we progress from there, Mamet skewers schlock entertainment posing as drama as well as drama created especially to inform those unfortunate masses that are sadly less enlightened than the benighted, preachy, "artist." An exceptionally handy volume for preachers to have nearby as they consider the role of art and drama in worship, an A brilliant, penetrating, and brief dive into the nature and purpose of drama. Mamet does not eschew drama, but begins by explaining its function in everyday life. As we progress from there, Mamet skewers schlock entertainment posing as drama as well as drama created especially to inform those unfortunate masses that are sadly less enlightened than the benighted, preachy, "artist." An exceptionally handy volume for preachers to have nearby as they consider the role of art and drama in worship, and as they consider the role of art and entertainment in the culture.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Derek Fraser

    There is a loosely organic structure to the book, but it can seem as though Mamet meanders from one topic to the next. Don't let that lose you. He hits upon "the nature and purpose of drama" like a theme returned to in a musical composition. This a book of theory, not practical advice. There is a loosely organic structure to the book, but it can seem as though Mamet meanders from one topic to the next. Don't let that lose you. He hits upon "the nature and purpose of drama" like a theme returned to in a musical composition. This a book of theory, not practical advice.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rj Thompson

    Had a few good ideas, some bad ideas, and a lot of nonsense. The author tries way too hard to sound intellectual and ends up saying hardly anything at all. For a book about writing, this is pretty poorly written.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robin Babb

    One of the finest pieces of writing I have ever laid eyes on. Gripping as a drama and clever as a good essay, and as unsatisfyingly thought-provoking as real art.

  27. 4 out of 5

    K

    so much water. At least I liked the title.

  28. 5 out of 5

    William

    This book is a delight to read. It's intellectually vigorous, clear-headedly cynical without being destructive, and thrillingly, energetically phrased. And short! He has a very firm point of view about what drama is for and what that means about what kind of drama is Good, or Art: that by admitting we're fucked, we feel less fucked for a moment, and by trying consciously not to be fucked we end up even more fucked than we were in the first place. So, in the big picture, drama comes from those tim This book is a delight to read. It's intellectually vigorous, clear-headedly cynical without being destructive, and thrillingly, energetically phrased. And short! He has a very firm point of view about what drama is for and what that means about what kind of drama is Good, or Art: that by admitting we're fucked, we feel less fucked for a moment, and by trying consciously not to be fucked we end up even more fucked than we were in the first place. So, in the big picture, drama comes from those times where order gives way to chaos and the hero first denies, then manages, then transcends or is overwhelmed by it. And the audience isn't there to learn, but there to be momentarily purged by the understanding that everyone feels a bit like that sometimes. Our Defense Department exists neither to "maintain our place in the world" nor to "provide security against external threats". It exists because we are willing to squander all ... to defend ourselves against feelings of our own powerlessness. To surround the President with hundreds of dedicated [bodyguards], to pay movie stars tens of millions of dollars for three months' work, is not only to propitiate the gods but to propitiate the principals as gods -- to declare, "This time I have found the perfect one. This time I have succeeded."/When we find that we have failed, we suppress our self-loathing by making our standards stricter. We suppress our anger at our failure to choose correctly. Now of course that magician didn't make that duck disappear. What he did was something of much greater worth -- he gave a moment of joy and astonishment to those who were delighted by it. / In suspending their disbelief -- in suspending their reason, if you will -- for a moment, the viewers were rewarded. They committed an act of faith, or of submission. And like those who rise refreshed from prayers, their prayers were answered. For the purpose of the prayer was not, finally, to bring about intercession in the material world, but to lay down, for the time of the prayer, one's confusion and rage and sorrow at one's own powerlessness. He's against the Problem Play ("The hero story is about a person undergoing a test that he or she didn't choose./ Heroes or heroines in the problem play, on the other hand, undergo a test over which they have complete control. They have chosen the test and they are going to succeed.") And yet... sometimes he's so in love with his line of argument that it runs away from him. Right at the end we have: At the end of the drama THE TRUTH -- which has been overlooked, disregarded, scorned, and denied -- prevails. And that is how we know the Drama is done. / It is done when the hidden is revealed and we are made whole, for we remember -- we remember when the world was upset. We the introduction of That New Thing that unbalanced a world we previously thought to be functioning well. We remember the increasingly vigorous efforts of the hero or heroine (who stands only for ourselves) to rediscover the truth and restore us (the audience) to rest. And, in the good drama, we recall how each attempt (each act) seemed to offer the solution, and how raptly we explored it, and how disappointed we (the hero) were on finding we had been wrong. Does this really map to Glengarry Glen Ross? Or Macbeth? Glengarry Glen Ross isn't driven by a search after truth, and the world was out of balance a long time before the start of the play (remember, Alec Baldwin's monologue was added for the movie). Is this really a structure that even Mamet follows? Or is this just an easy way to think about telling a story? Very much worth reading, and very much worth arguing with.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Phoenix

    Mamet And His Aphorisms The actual text of a play is usually short, it's the subtext that matters. This is also true of Mamet's "3 Uses of a Knife" which weighs in at 87 pages but says a great deal more about both theater and our driving need to inject drama into our politics and lives. Truth? What truth? Truth is only a kernel. The pundit who claims that Marlowe or someone else truly wrote Shakespeare is putting themselves above God - see here how clever I am, able to dismiss the Bard with a sin Mamet And His Aphorisms The actual text of a play is usually short, it's the subtext that matters. This is also true of Mamet's "3 Uses of a Knife" which weighs in at 87 pages but says a great deal more about both theater and our driving need to inject drama into our politics and lives. Truth? What truth? Truth is only a kernel. The pundit who claims that Marlowe or someone else truly wrote Shakespeare is putting themselves above God - see here how clever I am, able to dismiss the Bard with a single thought. As Mamet observes, truth is secondary to framing the question. (pp 31) The question is the source of power because how it is stated will determine the result. Early on it is important to invoke the McGuffin, the object or idea that stands in for the protagonist's goal. It may be real or chimera, it does not matter. Mamet emphasizes (but does not name) what is known as the "spotlight fallacy". Objects and events are important not because they are themselves important, but because we fashion and label their import. The first act invokes the quest, the raison d'être, the mythic and transcendent. The second act bridges, always a problem because it is mundane. We lose track of draining the swamps because the immediate problem is the alligators. So to solve that problem we go back an introduce a gun (pp37) or a knife (pp67) in the drawer because it foreshadows. But it must not be used it until much later on or it will lose it's power. Show, don't tell - Mamet opposes the "Death of My Kitten" soliloquy where the lead explains the back story that made him or her what she it - it's a appendage of Greek theater were the character addresses the God or Gods. Do it through character. The "problem" play is itself a problem - it's a trick and it's done with mirrors. We congratulate ourselves on how clever we are to see what the characters come to learn, that Harold Hill is selling a dream, not instruments, that Willy Loman could have been saved (and been much less interesting) had we slipped him early on some of our advice, that women, blacks, gays truly are human beings and equal. It's self flattery, no less a trick if it works. The accidental becomes essential (as in his Spanish Prisoner - no-one notices Japanese tourists) and this satisfices what we already knew. The man is intelligent, gifted, brilliant, his command of phrase both lyrical and sharp. Not only worth reading but having around to reread; a valuable supplement to any of Mamet's work. Recommended. Plus the index at the back is a nice touch, unexpected in such a short work; very helpful to look up specifics.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert Starr

    This was along the lines of Mamet's book On Directing Film, but not as straightforward. It's easier to point out bad writing than explain what it takes to produce good writing. Much of this is summed up better in his letter to the writing team on The Unit, but it's also worth reading here. Too many stories, whether plays, movies, or novels, are caught up in a message. We see a movie where we agree with the message, sit bored through it, leave extolling the virtues, and then forget about it two da This was along the lines of Mamet's book On Directing Film, but not as straightforward. It's easier to point out bad writing than explain what it takes to produce good writing. Much of this is summed up better in his letter to the writing team on The Unit, but it's also worth reading here. Too many stories, whether plays, movies, or novels, are caught up in a message. We see a movie where we agree with the message, sit bored through it, leave extolling the virtues, and then forget about it two days later. This isn't to say that message stories can't be good. Last year, we had Get Out, which had a clear message, but was also pretty entertaining. At the same time, looking back on it, the movie spent an awfully long time getting to the good parts. For me, Three Billboards was a better movie even though I didn't really agree with its statements. The characters were more interesting and made bolder choices. And there wasn't a single scene without drama. This book made me think about how much importance we put on plot. And how unimportant it really is. Plot twists have a tendency to deflate drama. And stories where I haven't cared about the plot or characters at all have had moments that really involved me. Great art gets labeled, but great drama is experienced. Hitchcock famously pointed out all the flaws in Psycho — and there are a lot of them — but then noted that it worked and that's all he cared about. Take an ordinary love story and put it on board a sinking ship, and it magically becomes more exciting. I don't think everybody agrees with this. I'm not even sure if Mamet would. But reading this got me to think about what drama is and how a seemingly small change (a scene where a character places a gun in a drawer on stage) can make a huge difference to the rest of the story.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.