Christopher Hitchens: Mamet is not Great

It’s barbecue season and Christopher Hitchens is making Mamet-kebabs in the pages of the New York Times Book Review.  Nobody skewers and grills a subject quite like Hitchens.  -Ed Scripsi

Published in: on June 20, 2011 at 4:43 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I usually find Chris to be so warm and compassionate, maybe it’s the chemo.

  2. My favorite line: “[Mamet’s claim] has a long way to go before it can even be called simplistic.”


  3. I haven’t yet read Mamet’s book, but it seems as though Hitchens suggests that Mamet thinks a repudiation of America’s cultural left (, HuffingtonPost/Chopra etc.) is a repudiation of America’s intellectual left (Chomsky). Is there any reason to assume Mamet thinks any such thing, particularly as the book in question is subtitled, “On the Dismantling of American Culture?”
    It is completely legitimate to suggest that buying a bumper sticker that says “save the whales” shouldn’t empower anyone to feel like they’re “doing their part” to save the whales. Branding doesn’t = action. Maybe no Leftist intellectual would equate branding and action, but there are PLENTY of left leaning folks that I know who think it does (MTV does it regularly). Hitchens dismissal of this phenomenon as unworthy of scrutiny seems beneath him.

  4. I haven’t read the Mamet either, but if Karl Marx comes up, it sounds like he’s got at least something to say about the “intellectual” left. In fact, I doubt Mamet makes any distinction between the “cultural” and “intellectual” left. “Culture” in the subtitle is probably used very broadly, as in “culture wars”. Hitchens only mentions Chomsky to point out that he understands why Mamet might find some of those guys a little annoying, as Hitchens and Chomsky recently had a spat on Slate.

    As to the bumper stickers, the way I read it, Hitchens is accusing Mamet of sloppy arguing rather than supporting the idea that buying stickers gets anything important accomplished. While I’m sure plenty of folks with “Save the Whales” stickers think that “raising consciousness” and/or the few cents of their sticker purchase that goes toward saving whales is more helpful than it is, I’m sure very few of them think buying stickers will, by some “magical process” save whales, which is what Mamet contends.

  5. It’s almost embarrassing that a brilliant artist can come off as such a monumental buffoon, politically. I mean obviously the cultural left is an ass but so too, obviously, is the cultural right. Perhaps because, some might say, most people are just dumb – or because most people simply don’t have the luxury of immersing themselves in political science or any other science, overwhelmed as they are with the struggle to survive. So they throw in their lot with those whom they believe to be upholding their interests (hence the bumper sticker syndrome) without thinking very much about it. But what could Mamet possibly hope to accomplish by attacking the cultural left from the standpoint of the equally moronic cultural right? We’ve all heard enough Rush Limbaugh-esque rhetoric to last ten lifetimes. It’s only the political capital he’s accumulated through his multifaceted work that, he must imagine, in some bizarre way will finally bring us to see the Limbaughian light.

    But the essential clue as to what this book is really about is in the title – “The Secret Knowledge” – an obvious reference to Blavatski’s “The Secret Doctrine”. No doubt Mamet, like so many showbiz luminaries of late, is immersing himself in the esoteric sciences. I think this political posturing of his is like some kind of spiritual purging and not to be taken very seriously. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with artistically in the future – the only aspect of his persona that interests me. If it is infected with this nonsense, then he really has gone over the edge and will lose all respect from his erstwhile audience. If not, then this work should perhaps be seen as some kind of regression therapy aimed at relieving some infantile anal retention conflict.

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