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Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and…

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

by David Mamet

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Mamet is always a compelling writer, and it's hard not to appreciate his stubborn, overconfident torrent of opinions—it's direct and easy to read. But then again, it's smart half the time, and downright silly the other half. ( )
  mrgan | Oct 30, 2017 |
On the positive, Mamet ventures bold and crisp statements on what makes good drama (or, perhaps more accurately, good Mamet-style drama). On the negative, he's wrong as often as he's right. His writing is brilliant; his writing about writing is less so. ( )
  jorgearanda | Mar 15, 2009 |
It should be noted that in general, I am not particularly fond of English academics. I find their work overly pretentious and entirely pointless, and also their interpretations completely irrelevant. This book did very little to change my opinion of that. As I read, I had to try very hard to not just give up, it was so aggravating.

His caliber of language is far above a normal reader, and the book is relatively devoid of any real content at all. He spends the entire time making the simple point that everything is drama, and there is bad drama and there is art (which is good drama).

If you want to read literary theories about plays and the theatre, I strongly suggest some other book. ( )
  Axiem | May 12, 2007 |
From Library Journal
One of America's leading living playwrights has crafted three short essays beginning with the premise that it is "our nature to dramatize." The belief in the centrality of drama to our daily lives and the centrality of our daily lives to good drama is the recurrent theme of his ruminations here. While he disdains the current vogue for "problem plays," he avoids attacking any of his contemporaries or their works. And without offering a how-to guide for aspiring playwrights, he provides some interesting thoughts on the inevitable difficulty in creating a convincing second act. Known and respected for his ability to create hyperrealistic dialog, Mamet ultimately reveals the theoretical justification for the sort of drama he writes so well. The text reads a bit like a lecture and never quite convinces the reader that this is a fundamental redefinition of drama. Still, it will be compelling to students of theater and serves as a good companion to Mamet's advice to actors, True and False. Douglas McClemont, New York
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
  mmckay | May 9, 2006 |
A perfect antidote to any thick, ponderous textbook on the history of theater. ( )
  seventime | Oct 27, 2005 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 037570423X, Paperback)

Playwright David Mamet's three lectures at Columbia University are ostensibly about issues of dramatic structure, but as they unfold, and Mamet continually explores the relationship between dramatic structure and the lives we live, much broader concerns are revealed. Here, for example, is Mamet on political propaganda:

It is ... essential to the healthy political campaign that the issues be largely or perhaps totally symbolic--i.e., non-quantifiable. Peace With Honor, Communists in the State Department, Supply Side Economics, Recapture the Dream, Bring Back the Pride--these are the stuff of pageant. They are not social goals; they are, as Alfred Hitchcock told us, the MacGuffin.... The less specific the qualities of the MacGuffin are, the more interested the audience will be.... A loose abstraction allows audience members to project their own desires onto an essentially featureless goal.

Although occasionally academic, the overall tone of the lectures is consistent with Mamet's no-nonsense manner of speech. He has no time for obfuscation and little time for repetition, save when he must absolutely employ it for emphasis. He is passionate about good theater, and passionate about the truth. 3 Uses of the Knife makes an excellent companion piece to his True and False, which addressed similar philosophical matters in the form of advice on the actor's craft.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:21 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, screenwriter, poet, essayist, and director, David Mamet celebrates the absolute necessity of drama - and the experience of great plays - in our lurching attempts to make sense of ourselves and our world. In three tightly woven essays of characteristic force and resonance, Mamet speaks about the connection of art to life, language to power, imagination to survival, the public spectacle to the private script. The essays in the book are an eloquent reminder of how life is filled with the small scenes of tragedy and comedy that can be described only as drama. Mamet also writes of bad theater; of what it takes to write a play, and the often impossibly difficult progression from act to act; the nature of soliloquy; the contentless drama and empty theatrics of politics and popular entertainment; the ubiquity of stage and literary conventions in the most ordinary of lives; and the uselessness, finally, of drama - or any art - as ideology or propaganda. Self-assured, filled with autobiographical touches, and attentive to the challenges to theater presented by a media world of simulacra, this book is a bracing call to art and to arms, a manifesto that reminds us of the singular power of the theater to keep us sane, whole, and human.… (more)

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