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American Buffaloed



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Andrew Ferguson has a lively profile of the playwright David Mamet:

His fame was enough to fill the stalls of Memorial Hall at Stanford University when he came to give a talk one evening a couple of years ago. About half the audience were students. The rest were aging faculty out on a cheap date with their wives or husbands. You could identify the male profs by the wispy beards and sandals-’n’-socks footwear. The wives were in wraparound skirts and had hair shorter than their husbands’… The unease that began to ripple through the audience had less to do with the speaker’s delivery than with his speech’s content. Mamet was delivering a frontal assault on American higher education, the provider of the livelihood of nearly everyone in his audience.

Higher ed, he said, was an elaborate scheme to deprive young people of their freedom of thought. He compared four years of college to a lab experiment in which a rat is trained to pull a lever for a pellet of food. A student recites some bit of received and unexamined wisdom—“Thomas Jefferson: slave owner, adulterer, pull the lever”—and is rewarded with his pellet: a grade, a degree, and ultimately a lifelong membership in a tribe of people educated to see the world in the same way.

What happens when you decide, as Mamet did, that your membership in the tribe is no longer lifelong?

After reading The Secret Knowledge in galleys, the Fox News host and writer Greg Gutfeld invented the David Mamet Attack Countdown Clock, which “monitors the days until a once-glorified liberal artist is dismissed as an untalented buffoon.” Tick tock.

I wrote about what Mr. Mamet could expect a couple of years back:

In The Village Voice the other week, the playwright David Mamet recently outed himself as a liberal apostate and revealed that he’s begun reading conservative types like Milton Friedman and Paul Johnson. If he’s wondering what he’s in for a year or two down the line, here’s how Newsweek’s Jonathan Tepperman began his review this week of another literary leftie who wandered off the reservation:

“Toward the end of The Second Plane, Martin Amis’s new book on the roots and impact of 9/11, the British novelist describes a fellow writer as ‘an oddity: his thoughts and themes are… serious — but he writes like a maniac. A talented maniac, but a maniac.’ Amis is describing Mark Steyn, a controversial anti-Islam polemicist, but he could just as well be describing another angry, Muslim-bashing firebrand: himself. Talented, yes. Serious, yes. But also, judging from the new book, a maniac.”

Poor chap. What did Martin Amis ever do to deserve being compared to me? As Mr. Tepperman concludes, the new Amis is “painful for the legion of Amis fans who still love him for novels like The Rachel Papers and his masterpiece, London Fields.”

Likewise, the new Mamet will be “painful for the legion of [Mamet] fans who still love him for [plays] like [American Buffalo] and his masterpiece, [Glengarry Glen Ross].” And pretty soon at all those colleges the received wisdom will be either that only the early Mamet is worth reading — or that even those first works were hopelessly overrated and don’t stand the test of time. To “liberals,” apostasy is the greatest sin, and they’re serious enforcers.



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