Three Uses of the Knife
“The purpose of the theater, like magic, like religion—those three harness mates—is to inspire cleansing awe”. If that line doesn’t make you dash out to buy Three Uses of the Knife, you have neither heart nor soul.
The fact that this book of essays is tiny (64 pages including index) should not deceive the prospective purchaser and reader. In those pages, David Mamet offers more wisdom than many books 5 or 10 times its size.
On one level, it can be viewed as a deeply thought-out volume of contemporary philosophy, albeit from a couple of decades ago when the volume was originally published in the United States.
On another, it offers trenchant opinions on the value of art per se and, almost as a by-product, is structured like a play and will prove of value to anybody seeking to gain a grounding in that artform.
Perhaps best of all, the series of essays provide a justification for the existence of art and culture, in doing so damning mass-market entertainment, which the author regards as little more than a diversion.
He also offers some challenging thoughts about the nature of creativity, which might cow lesser folks.
Similarly, Mamet’s musings tell us much about the nature of politics and will do little to please those who believe that politicians are the crème de la crème, bred to rule benignly with the best interests of the populace at heart.
Readers may not agree with all of his theories but anyone who takes a little time out to read Three Uses of the Knife will discover much about life, art and the theatre. There will also get a rare opportunity to delve deeply into the mind of a fine thinker, not to mention one of the greatest playwrights of the last few decades.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher