as ‘those Yankee values which are not a fiction. Taciturnity. Circumspection. Self-respect. Honesty. Humour. l’atience.‘
Not. thankfully. that he has turned into a latter- day Frank Capra. all down-home folksiness and apple-pie homilies. This is still Mamet country. where a man must learn how to survive in the woods (his descriptions of hunting are remark- ably line). where effort mostly fails. marriages and businesses flounder. and people live miserably and die pointlessly.
His skill is to make it all matter terribly. even if only in echo of an observation by one of his charaters at a funeral’— ‘lsn't it strange how we are reminded of the good by the bad‘. And he finds. for once. a sense of belonging. whether it comes in company round the stove at the store where stories are swapped, or alone in the woods with a deer in your sights.
‘I always wanted to be a writer, and to me a writer was somebody who wrote novels. So I figured well, hell, if you want to be one, why don’t you try it?’
That‘s in stark contrast to the urban angst of those hard-talking characters in his plays and movies. in spite of the hard-man image. Mamet‘s writing has always laid bare the fear that fuels their motormouths. their need to keep talking in order to stave off the silence which would open them to self-reflection and. in its wake. despair at their brash. tawdry. void lives.
Forget the legend; Mamet is a long way from being ‘Hemingway -— 'l‘he Remake‘. As well as his loud and famous works. he has also always written small. quiet plays and monologues. Obscure and far less frequently performed than the crowd-pleasers. plays like Reunion and The [)i.§‘(tpp('(ll‘(llit‘(’ of The Jews have consistently and quite unsentimentally shown his belief that the necessities of life are not the money. the sex and the consumer gook that his braggarts lust after. but security. family. home. trust and self- reliance. That feeling is more successfully expressed than ever before in The tillage.
So maybe central casting and the media circus have got it wrong. Maybe Mamet‘s just an old softie underneath. in the car on the way to our TV interview. we talked about our mutual admiration for Chuck Jones’s Bugs Bunny cartoons. I doubt that you‘d get that with Hemingway. 'J The Village is published by l’aher and Faber at £14.99.
(Simon Cherry is a researcher for The South Bank Show. David Mamet's words recorded for that programme. )
3&8 / .. .
- ~ . ~~ I Director David Mamet (right) discusses a scene with non Ameche in Things Change
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The List 2] October—3 November l99411