Acclaimed playwright David Mamet is featured in the New York Times Sunday magazine’s "Talk" feature (formerly "Q&A") on the eve of the publication of "The Secret Knowledge," his dramatic intellectual break with the political left.
Early reviews suggest Mamet’s message is bracing, and the left has responded in kind with vicious cries of sellout. Perhaps that’s why Andrew Goldman’s Q&A with Mamet is testier than his previous interviews (he replaced the liberal Deborah Solomon in the magazine’s Q&A slot in March). Even the subhead was slanted and hostile: "David Mamet explains his intellectual shift to the right. The far right."
A few of Goldman’s challenging questions (in bold) and Mamet's answers (in normal type):
Years ago, you described "American Buffalo" as being about "how we excuse all sorts of great and small betrayals and ethical compromises called business." In this book, you defend enormous payouts to C.E.O.’s working for failing corporations. You seem to have changed radically.
I have. Here’s the question: Is it absurd for a company to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to a C.E.O. if the company is failing? The answer is that it may or may not be absurd, but it’s none of our goddamned business. Because as Milton Friedman said, the question is not what are the decisions but who makes the decisions. Because when the government starts deciding what’s absurd, you’re on the road to serfdom.
You wrote that Karl Marx "never worked a day in his life." But how is his writing "Das Kapital" fundamentally different from the way you make a living? You realize you’re not a plumber, right?
Jesus Christ. Listen, here’s the thing about an English degree -- if you sat somebody down and asked them to make a list of the writers they admire over the last hundred years, see how many of them got a degree in English.
Sometimes in the book I thought you were just trying to anger some of your liberal friends, like when you wrote the West sees the Middle East conflict as "entertainment."
No, I think that it’s true. There has always been a different standard for the Jews. We’re like "honorary Aryans," as Hitler said of the Japanese. That means that we’re human beings only when it suits the world to treat us as human beings. There’s a pretty good book on the subject -- the Torah.