A broad-ranging journey through history, the Bible, and literature, Recessional examines how politics and cultural attitudes about rebellion have shifted in the United States in the last generation. By screaming down freedom of thought and expression, Mamet explains, we kill invention and democracy—the foundations of security and growth.
There’s an essay early in David Mamet’s new book...that offers a tantalizing glimpse of what the book could have been, were the celebrated playwright’s brains not so irradiated by right-wing media and memes ... I can imagine a different book in which Mamet takes such insights and goes even deeper into the American unconscious, past and present, airing its hidden racial and sexual laundry ... Who better to tell us what acts of repression and self-deception are being performed right now by right-thinking leftists and liberals? God knows we could use it ... If only. Telling an author what he should have written is one of the cardinal sins of book criticism. In the case of Recessional, though, it seems like the only critically generous thing to do ... There’s nothing wrong, in principle, with this set of likes and dislikes, and I can imagine a collection of columns (there I go again) that is interesting and stylish enough to justify itself as a book. But Mamet in Recessional is a lazy writer ... There’s a slapdash quality to it all, an unearned confidence that his writerly instincts are so potent that a few anecdotes or observations strung together, tied up at the end with a callback to the beginning, will naturally coalesce into profundity ... He’s David effing Mamet, one of the great living playwrights of the English-speaking world, a brilliant man and an extraordinarily stylish writer. Even at 74, an age when all but the rarest of us are past our primes, he should be better.
Anecdotal ... Mr. Mamet is at his best when remembering a conversation or sharing a tidbit of history he has picked up over the years ... He has the artist’s eye for incongruity and the stand-up comic’s sense of timing.
Mamet’s conspiracy theories aren’t exactly harm-ful (the only two kinds of people who’ll finish this book are those who already agree with it and those who’ve been paid to review it), but they’re often breathtakingly stupid ... Mamet didn’t drift to the Right, he sprinted ... Even a broken clock is right twice a day, though, and every dozen pages or so he’ll say something blunt and insightful and pretty much true ... Recessional has its share of pleasures, mostly unintentional but pleasures all the same ... Somebody at Harper Collins...made him capitalize 'Black' — imagining how that Zoom meeting went is almost enough to justify the entire book’s existence.