Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  David Mamet  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: November 30, 1947 in Flossmoor, Illinois

-- David Mamet on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Mamet was born and raised in Flossmoor.

Biographical and Professional Information

David Mamet is an American author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and film director. His works are known for their clever, terse, sometimes vulgar dialogue and arcane stylized phrasing, as well as for his exploration of masculinity. He was educated at Goddard College in Vermont where he later taught. He is a founding member of the St. Nicholas Players Theater Company in 1974 and has written screen adaptations of several of his plays.Mamet's first produced screenplay was the 1981 production of ''The Postman Always Rings Twice'' (directed by Bob Rafelson), based upon James M. Cain's novel. As a screenwriter, he received Oscar nominations for ''The Verdict'' (1982) and ''Wag the Dog'' (1997). He wrote the screenplays for such films as ''The Verdict'', ''The Untouchables'' and ''Wag the Dog'', and has twice been nominated for an Academy Award. He has written and directed ten films, including ''Homicide'', ''The Spanish Prisoner'', ''State and Main'', ''House of Games'', ''Spartan'' and ''Redbelt''. His numerous plays include Oleanna, ''Glengarry Glen Ross'' (winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award), ''American Buffalo'', ''Speed-the-Plow'', ''Boston Marriage'', ''November, Race'' and ''The Anarchist''. As a playwright, he received Tony nominations for ''Glengarry Glen Ross'' (1984) and ''Speed-the-Plow'' (1988). His HBO film Phil Spector, starring Al Pacino and Helen Mirren, aired in 2013 and earned him two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Directing. He was co-creator and executive producer of the CBS television show The Unit.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Writing in Restaurants
ISBN: 0140089810

Penguin Books. 1987

Temporarily putting aside his role as playwright, director, and screen-writer, David Mamet digs deep and delivers thirty outrageously diverse vignettes. On subjects ranging from the vanishing American pool hall, family vacations, and the art of being a bitch, to the role of today's actor, his celebrated contemporaries and predecessors, and his undying commitment to the theater, David Mamet's concise style, lean dialogue, and gut-wrenching honesty give us a unique view of the world as he sees it.

On Directing Film
ISBN: 0140127224

Penguin Books. 1992

A masterclass on the art of directing from the Pulitzer Prize-winning (and Oscar and Tony-nominated) writer of Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed the Plow, The Verdict, and Wag the Dog

Calling on his unique perspective as playwright, screenwriter, and director of his own critically acclaimed movies like House of Games, State and Main, and Things Change, David Mamet illuminates how a film comes to be. He looks at every aspect of directing—from script to cutting room—to show the many tasks directors undertake in reaching their prime objective: presenting a story that will be understood by the audience and has the power to be both surprising and inevitable at the same time. Based on a series of classes Mamet taught at Columbia University's film school, On Directing Film will be indispensible not only to students but to anyone interested in an overview of the craft of filmmaking.

"Passion, clarity, commitment, intelligence—just what one would expect from Mamet." —Sidney Lumet, Academy Award-nominated director of 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and The Verdict

The Cabin: Reminiscence and Diversions
ISBN: 0679747206

Vintage. 1993

In these mordant, elegant, and often disquieting essays, the internationally acclaimed dramatist creates a sort of autobiography by strobe light, one that is both mysterious and starkly revealing.

The pieces in The Cabin are about places and things: the suburbs of Chicago, where as a boy David Mamet helplessly watched his stepfather terrorize his sister New York City, where as a young man he had to eat his way through a mountain of fried matzoh to earn a night of sexual bliss. They are about guns, campaign buttons, and a cabin in the Vermont woods that stinks of wood smoke and kerosene -- and about their associations of pleasure, menace, and regret.

The resulting volume may be compared to the plays that have made Mamet famous: it is finely crafted and deftly timed, and its precise language carries an enormous weight of feeling.

The Village: A Novel
ISBN: 0316543381

Little Brown & Co. 1996

The noted playwright offers a novel about life in a secluded, mysterious, and complex New England town

American Buffalo
ISBN: 0802150578

Grove Press. 1994

A classic tragedy, American Buffalo is a story of three men struggling in the pursuit of their distorted vision of the American Dream. By turns touching and cynical, poignant and violent, American Buffalo is a piercing story of how people can be corrupted into betraying their ideals and those they love.

True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor
ISBN: 0679772642

Vintage. 1997

One of our most brilliantly iconoclastic playwrights takes on the art of profession of acting with these words: invent nothing, deny nothing, speak up, stand up, stay out of school. Acting schools, “interpretation,” “sense memory,” “The Method”—David Mamet takes a jackhammer to the idols of contemporary acting, while revealing the true heroism and nobility of the craft. He shows actors how to undertake auditions and rehearsals, deal with agents and directors, engage audiences, and stay faithful to the script, while rejecting the temptations that seduce so many of their colleagues. Bracing in its clarity, exhilarating in its common sense, True and False is as shocking as it is practical, as witty as it is instructive, and as irreverent as it is inspiring.

Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama
ISBN: 037570423X

Vintage. 2000

The purpose of theater, like magic, like religion . . . is to inspire cleansing awe. What makes good drama? And why does drama matter in an age that is awash in information and entertainment? David Mamet, one of our greatest living playwrights, tackles these questions with bracing directness and aphoristic authority. He 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.

The Old Religion
ISBN: 1585671908

The Overlook Press. 2002

In 1913, a young woman was found murdered in the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta.

The investigation focused on the Jewish manager of the factory, Leo Frank, who was subsequently forced to stand trial for the crime he didn't commit and railroaded to a life sentence in prison. Shortly after being incarcerated, he was abducted from his cell and lynched in front of a gleeful mob.

In vividly re-imagining these horrifying events, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Mamet inhabits the consciousness of the condemned man to create a novel whose every word seethes with anger over prejudice and injustice. The Old Religion is infused with the dynamic force and the remarkable ear that have made David Mamet one of the most acclaimed voices of our time. It stands beside To Kill a Mockingbird as a powerful exploration of justice, racism, and the "rush to judgment."

The Chinaman: Poems
ISBN: 0879518979

Overlook Press. 1999

A new collection of poetry from the distinguished playwright and director presents forty energetic poems, including both original and previously published works that have appeared in The New Yorker and other noted publications. 10,000 first printing.

Jafsie and John Henry: Essays
ISBN: 0684841207

Free Press. 1999

David Mamet has said that if he hadn't found a life in the theater, it is very likely he would have become a criminal. In Jafsie and John Henry the master improviser takes on a range of roles and personae in a lively and personal way. Though older and wiser than when he first shocked theatergoers with the play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Mamet remains one of the most provocative and iconoclastic voices in American writing today, with an idiom so distinct, so American, that it defies comparison. Mamet in this diverse collection turns his unique lens on subjects ranging from houses to Hollywood producers. As the writer turns fifty, he not only shares his reflections on the nature of creativity and the challenges and rewards of aging but delves into his most intimate obsessions. From a description of the labyrinthine psychology of poker to sharp sallies on moviemaking gibberish and the meaning of macho, Jafsie and John Henry is knit together by Mamet's unique perspective and inimitably spare wit. Oscar Wilde, the tower of Babel, The House Committee on Un-American Activities, Jewish scripture, police corruption, the art of acting, and single-malt scotch are all grist for the mill of Mamet's quicksilver mind. He reminisces about his first car, muses on the Lindbergh trial, laments the loss of the art of knifemaking, and lambastes Hollywood culture. The perennial outsider, David Mamet gives us an inside look at the unique world of an American icon and an unromantic perspective on the changing nature of creativity in an artist's life.

Wilson: A Consideration of the Sources
ISBN: 1585671894

Abrams Press. 2001

A challenging new novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright imagines a future in which the internet crashes and the past must be reconstructed from the memories of Ginger, wife of ex-President Woodrow Wilson.

South of the Northeast Kingdom
ISBN: 0792269608

National Geographic. 2002

Compared to some of its New England neighbors, Vermont has seemed to long-time resident David Mamet a place of intrinsic energy and progressiveness, love and commonality. It has lived up to the old story that settlers came up the Connecticut River and turned right to get to New Hampshire and left to get to Vermont. Is Vermont's tradition of live and let live an accident of geography, the happy by-product of 200 years of national neglect, an emanation of its Scots-Irish regional character? Exploring the ways in which his decades in Vermont have shaped his character and his work, Mamet examines each of these strands and how the state's free-thinking tradition can survive in an age of increasing conglomeration. The result is a highly personal and compelling portrait of a truly unique place.

The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-hatred, and the Jews (Jewish Encounters)
ISBN: 0805242074

Schocken. 2006

Part of the Jewish Encounter series

As might be expected from this fiercely provocative writer, David Mamet’s interest in anti-Semitism is not limited to the modern face of an ancient hatred but encompasses as well the ways in which many Jews have themselves internalized that hatred. Using the metaphor of the Wicked Son at the Passover seder—the child who asks, “What does this story mean to you?”—Mamet confronts what he sees as an insidious predilection among some Jews to seek truth and meaning anywhere—in other religions, in political movements, in mindless entertainment—but in Judaism itself. At the same time, he explores the ways in which the Jewish tradition has long been and still remains the Wicked Son in the eyes of the world.

Written with the searing honesty and verbal brilliance that is the hallmark of Mamet’s work, The Wicked Son is a scathing look at one of the most destructive and tenacious forces in contemporary life, a powerfully thought-provoking and important book.

Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business
ISBN: 1400034442

Vintage. 2008

From the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and playwright: an exhilaratingly subversive inside look at Hollywood from a filmmaker who’s always played by his own rules.

Who really reads the scripts at the film studios? How is a screenplay like a personals ad? Why are there so many producers listed in movie credits? And what on earth do those producers do anyway? Refreshingly unafraid to offend, Mamet provides hilarious, surprising, and refreshingly forthright answers to these and other questions about every aspect of filmmaking from concept to script to screen. A bracing, no-holds-barred examination of the strange contradictions of Tinseltown, Bambi vs. Godzilla dissects the movies with Mamet’s signature style and wit.

ISBN: 086547947X

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2011

If theatre were a religion, explains David Mamet in his opening chapter, "many of the observations and suggestions in this book might be heretical." As always, Mamet delivers on his promise: in Theatre, the acclaimed author of Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed the Plow calls for nothing less than the death of the director and the end of acting theory. For Mamet, either actors are good or they are non-actors, and good actors generally work best without the interference of a director, however well-intentioned. Issue plays, political correctness, method actors, impossible directions, Stanislavksy, and elitists all fall under Mamet's critical gaze. To students, teachers, and directors who crave a blast of fresh air in a world that can be insular and fearful of change, Theatre throws down a gauntlet that challenges everyone to do better, including Mamet himself.

The Trials of Roderick Spode ("The Human Ant")
ISBN: 1402238304

Sourcebooks. 2010

For years, David Mamet has given the world gripping drama, hilarious encounters, and unforgettable characters through his plays, films, and novels. Now he brings his trademark style to a whole new genre, with a laugh-out-loud comic collection that provides a clever and postmodern take on the world of superheroes and ordinary life.
The Trials of Roderick Spode ("The Human Ant") follows the bizarre and hilarious adventures of Roderick Spode, an ordinary man who, after a few too many drinks, confuses a photo booth with a booth that gives out special powers, so he now turns into an ant half the time. Follow Roderick as he hangs out with his friend Cocky Cockroach, freelances as a comma, and fights his nemesis: the European Sourdough Rye!
The Trials of Roderick Spode ("The Human Ant") is a brilliantly offbeat and delightfully different offering from one of our greatest living talents.

The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture
ISBN: 1595230971

Sentinel. 2012

David Mamet has been a controversial, defining force in nearly every creative endeavor-now he turns his attention to politics.

In recent years, David Mamet realized that the so-called mainstream media outlets he relied on were irredeemably biased, peddling a hypocritical and deeply flawed worldview.

In 2008 Mamet wrote a hugely controversial op-ed for the Village Voice, "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'", in which he methodically attacked liberal beliefs, eviscerating them as efficiently as he did Method acting in his bestselling book True and False.

Now Mamet employs his trademark intellectual force and vigor to take on all the key political issues of our times, from religion to political correctness to global warming. The legendary playwright, author, director, and filmmaker pulls no punches in his art or in his politics. And as a former liberal who woke up, Mamet will win over an entirely new audience of others who have grown irate over America's current direction.

Three War Stories
ISBN: 0786755601

Argo-Navis. 2013

Spanning centuries and continents, Mamet uses war and its players to explore, among other themes, redemption and forgiveness as they unfold in the context of conflict in the form of three novellas.

In The Redwing, the first of the three novellas, a 19th Century Secret Service naval officer turned prisoner, then novelist and finally memoirist recounts his own transformations during the course of his service and imprisonment.

The protagonist in Notes on Plain Warfare examines religion through the prism of the American Indian wars. Finally, The Handle and the Hold is a vivid, dialogue-driven tale of two ex-military men who steal a plane in the month before the Israeli War of Independence.

Finely wrought, Mamet eloquently depicts the psychological brutality conflict raises in the landscape of the mind.

Chicago: A Novel
ISBN: 0062797190

Custom House. 2018

A big-shouldered, big-trouble thriller set in mobbed-up 1920s Chicago—a city where some people knew too much, and where everyone should have known better—by the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of The Untouchables and Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright of Glengarry Glen Ross.

Mike Hodge—veteran of the Great War, big shot of the Chicago Tribune, medium fry—probably shouldn’t have fallen in love with Annie Walsh. Then, again, maybe the man who killed Annie Walsh have known better than to trifle with Mike Hodge.

In Chicago, David Mamet has created a bracing, kaleidoscopic page-turner that roars through the Windy City’s underground on its way to a thunderclap of a conclusion. Here is not only his first novel in more than two decades, but the book he has been building to for his whole career. Mixing some of his most brilliant fictional creations with actual figures of the era, suffused with trademark "Mamet Speak," richness of voice, pace, and brio, and exploring—as no other writer can—questions of honor, deceit, revenge, and devotion, Chicago is that rarest of literary creations: a book that combines spectacular elegance of craft with a kinetic wallop as fierce as the February wind gusting off Lake Michigan.

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