The publishers were kind enough to approach me and offer a review copy of The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture.
It has taken its place beside In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks as our “bathroom book.”
Believe it or not, Mamet’s book isn’t out of place there, because it is divided into shortish chapters on various topics.
Hitchens’ “review” of the book was uncharacteristically petty and petulant. (“Do unto others” is supposed to be a preventative, not a guide to punishment, for instance. Very sloppy.)
I hope to have deeper thoughts on the book later, but for now:
- Mamet is at his best when being anecdotal and conversational. The book slows down when he tries to be very platonic and “Great Ideas,” with all the Requisite Capital Letters on all the Important Words.
- Hometown pride is one of those human things I will never comprehend. Mamet’s affection for the Chicago of his youth — specifically its “colorful” corruption — mystifies me. There is nothing “conservative” about having great affection for the corruption that afflicts New Orleans or Soviet Russia or Italy. Excusing this sort of rot as Runyonesque “charm” is something I expect from liberals and libertarians, what with their twisted affection for outlaws. Although I suppose “nostalgia” is a “conservative” tendency, after a fashion…
- Anyone who hadn’t heard of Thomas Sowell before picking up The Secret Knowledge will be stocking up on his titles, and that can only be a good thing.
- If you are already a conservative — or more accurately, a former liberal — The Secret Knowledge probably won’t have anything new to say to you. And if you are a liberal or socialist, you’ll never read it anyway.
- But as I say, his personal stories (from show biz and the urban Jewish/WASP “sophisticate” milieu in which Mamet is a long time insider) are memorable, entertaining and instructive. Mamet is also a guy who has worked real jobs, unlike many of his (now former) friends and colleagues. Because I think class is everything, I suspect that played a large part in his disillusionment.
- And he is WAY too optimistic about the future.