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

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

by David Mamet
     
 

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What makes good drama? How does drama matter in our lives? In Three Uses of the Knife, one of America's most respected writers reminds us of the secret powers of the play. 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…  See more details below

Overview

What makes good drama? How does drama matter in our lives? In Three Uses of the Knife, one of America's most respected writers reminds us of the secret powers of the play. 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.

It is our fundamental nature to dramatize everything. As Mamet says, "Our understanding of our life, of our drama . . . . resolves itself into thirds: Once Upon a Time . . . . Years Passed . . . . And Then One Day." We inhabit a drama of daily life - waiting for a bus, describing a day's work, facing decisions, making choices, finding meaning. 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.

First-rate theater, Mamet writes, satisfies the human hunger for ordering the world into cause-effect-conclusion. A good play calls for the protagonist "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." Drama works, in the end, when it supplies the meaning and wholeness once offered by magic and religion - an embodied journey from lie to truth, arrogance to wisdom.

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.

-One of America's leading living playwrights has crafted three short essays beginning iwth the premise that it is 'our nature to dramatize'...It will be compelling to students of theater and serves as a good companion to Mamet's advice to actors, True and False. -Library Journal -He writes with thrilling simplicity and authority, discussing problems all working playwrights confront...Calm, cool, carefully measured meditations of a man passionate about the truth and determined to share his ideas. -A. L. A. Booklist

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Mamet] brings his usual passion and provocation to his treatise on what makes good drama." —Vanity Fair

"No modern playwright has been bolder or more brilliant." —The New Yorker

"Pinter, Albee, Miller. They're all looking over Mamet's shoulder." —New York

"David Mamet adds yet another segment to a body of work that puts him among the great writers of this, or any other, time." —Joe Mantegna

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 (LJ 10/1/97). Recommended for academic and large public libraries.Douglas McClemont, New York
The New Yorker
No modern playwright has been bolder or more brilliant.
New York
Pinter, Albee, Miller. They're all looking over Mamet's shoulder.
Vanity Fair
[Mamet] brings his usual passion and provacation to his treatise on what makes good drama.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375704239
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/28/2000
Pages:
96
Sales rank:
491,138
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.29(d)

What People are saying about this

Joe Mantegna
David Mamet adds yet another segment to a body of work that puts him among the great writers of this, or any other, time.

Meet the Author

David Mamet is the author of the plays Oleanna; Glengarry Glen Ross, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize and a New York Drama Critics Circle Award; Speed the Plow; and Sexual Perversity in Chicago, among others. His films include, as screenwriter, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Verdict, The Untouchables, The Edge, and Wag of the Dog, and as writer/director, House of Games, Homicide, Things Change, and The Spanish Prisoner. He is also the author of children's books and four books of essays, Writing in Restaurants, Some Freaks, The Cabin, and Make Believe Town; two novels, The Village and The Old Religion and a book on acting, True and False.

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