I’ve mentioned before that although my libertarian orientation tends to put me on the right (certainly in the academic humanities), I was fortunate enough to have professors at Ball State who were intellectually honest, and who focused on my work rather than my politics. This was true even in the case of my most radical professor, who now blogs (and occasionally appears on MSNBC) as the Rude Pundit, whose writings are half screed and half schtick. He’s very left, and his version of performance art is not for the faint of heart.
However, he was also my professor for American drama, and a member of my Ph.D. committee. In those roles, he was always professional and helpful, and while we needled each other occasionally about political matters, it never got in the way of what we were there to do.
One of the things we did in his American Drama class was read and discuss David Mamet’s Oleanna. I found Mamet’s play to be an interesting departure from the other plays we read that term, most of which could be read as agitprop rather than art. Even so, Mamet apparently saw himself as a man of the left, showing the dehumanizing underbelly of 20th-Century capitalism in works like Glengarry Glen Ross. Along the way, he’s written hit movies, won a Pulitzer, and become an important figure in American literature
But as I mentioned some months ago, Mamet has moved rightward in recent years, and there’s an interesting profile in The Weekly Standard that outlines the process and reasons behind his change. The occasion is a new book from Mamet, which spells out his new position, apparently (and unsurprisingly) without mincing any words. Mamet’s rabbi was apparently a key figure in the process, and the article has a quote from the rabbi that I found striking:
“That’s one thing he began to see: The left flattens people, reduces people to financial interests. Dave’s an artist. He knew people are deeper than that.”
While I wouldn’t dream of calling myself an artist of Mamet’s caliber (or much of an artist at all, really), this resonated with me because I come from a very similar place, the idea that even if we are political animals, we must be something more than that, besides that, as well as that, if we are to have any meaning at all.
Of course, this may well mark Mamet as a political class traitor; as the article notes:
After reading The Secret Knowledge in galleys, the Fox News host and writer Greg Gutfeld invented the David Mamet Attack Countdown Clock, which “monitors the days until a once-glorified liberal artist is dismissed as an untalented buffoon.” Tick tock.
I don’t know if he’ll become an artistic unperson, or if he’ll be seen as some sort of Pound-lite — a former genius turned mad and evil. Maybe I’ll ask the Rude Pundit in a few months. Regardless of what happens, I think Mamet’s work stands on its own. In any case, read the article, and I’ll put the book on my list.
H/T: Erin O’Connor, via facebook.