Cover image for Jafsie and John Henry : essays
Jafsie and John Henry : essays
Mamet, David.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Free Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xv, 171 pages ; 23 cm
Looking at fifty -- Five-mile walk -- Salad days -- Black cashmere sweater -- Cops and cars -- Six hours of perfect poker -- Scotch Malt Whiskey Society -- Knives -- Caps -- Photographs -- The new house -- Producers -- L.A. homes -- Karmann Ghia -- Smash cut -- The screenplay and the State Fair -- Bad boys -- Resorts -- Noach -- The fireman's child -- Poor but happy -- Brompton cocktail -- Why don't you write with a computer? -- Race driving school -- Domicile -- December 24 -- Late season hunt.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3563.A4345 J34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS3563.A4345 J34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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David Mamet has said that if he hadn't found a life in the theater, it is very likely he would have become a criminal. In Jafsie and John Henry the master improviser takes on a range of roles and personae in a lively and personal way. Though older and wiser than when he first shocked theatergoers with the play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Mamet remains one of the most provocative and iconoclastic voices in American writing today, with an idiom so distinct, so American, that it defies comparison. Mamet in this diverse collection turns his unique lens on subjects ranging from houses to Hollywood producers. As the writer turns fifty, he not only shares his reflections on the nature of creativity and the challenges and rewards of aging but delves into his most intimate obsessions. From a description of the labyrinthine psychology of poker to sharp sallies on moviemaking gibberish and the meaning of macho, Jafsie and John Henry is knit together by Mamet's unique perspective and inimitably spare wit. Oscar Wilde, the tower of Babel, The House Committee on Un-American Activities, Jewish scripture, police corruption, the art of acting, and single-malt scotch are all grist for the mill of Mamet's quicksilver mind. He reminisces about his first car, muses on the Lindbergh trial, laments the loss of the art of knifemaking, and lambastes Hollywood culture. The perennial outsider, David Mamet gives us an inside look at the unique world of an American icon and an unromantic perspective on the changing nature of creativity in an artist's life.

Author Notes

David Mamet, November 30, 1947 - David Mamet was born on November 30, 1947 in Flossmoor, Illinois. He attended Goddard College in Vermont and the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater in New York. He began his career as an actor and a director, but soon turned to playwriting.

He won acclaim in 1976 with three Off-Broadway plays, "The Duck Variations," "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" and "American Buffalo." His work became known for it's strong male characters and the description of the decline of morality in the world. In 1984, Mamet received the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for his play, "Glengarry Glen Ross."

In 1981, before he received the Pulitzer, Mamet tried his hand at screenwriting. he started by adapting "The Postman Always Rings Twice," and then adapting his own "Glengarry Glen Ross" as well as writing "The Untouchables" and Wag the Dog." He also taught at Goddard College, Yale Drama School and New York University.

Mamet won the Jefferson Award in 1974, the Obie Award in 1976 and 1983, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1977 and 1984, the Outer Circle Award in 1978, the Society of West End Theater Award in 1983, The Pulitzer Prize in 1984, The Dramatists Guild Hall-Warriner Award in 1984, and American Academy Award in 1986 and a Tony Award in 1987. He is considered to be one of the greatest artists in his field.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Mamet achieves exhilarating clarity, elegance, and forcefulness of expression in his newest essay collection. He possesses the timing of a dancer, a comedian, and a knife thrower and is as fine a distiller of experience as the makers of his favorite scotch whiskey are of spirits. "Looking at Fifty," the first of more than two dozen tightly constructed and resounding essays, sets the tone for all of Mamet's reflections on the path his life has taken. Compressing decades' worth of longing into highly charged paragraphs, he deftly summarizes boyhood moments in Chicago, his immersion in theater and film in New York, and dim views of Hollywood. By turns tender, suave, and ferocious, Mamet employs a private lexicon of black cashmere sweaters, cars, knives, and poker to analyze our "savage species" and pursuit of oblivion, but he sets such devices aside in his ringing indictments of our enslavement to the media and addiction to computers and television. On every page, the exactitude of his style stands in striking contrast to his long-brewing outrage over humanity's perversity and destructiveness.--Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

The first of 27 essays in this grab bag of characteristically taut pieces is called "Looking at Fifty," and perhaps no words more aptly foreshadow the pieces to come. For this latest effort by Mamet, largely a collection of previously published work, is one part wistful reminiscence, one part curmudgeonly (and often Luddite) rant and one part seasoned social commentary. Mamet, often taken to task as a playwright and screenwriter for his superficial characters, here flashes impressive depth. In "L.A. Houses," he skewers cultural philisitinism by describing a director who wanted him to write a screenplay of Moby-Dick from the point of view of the whale. Remembrances of a Chicago boyhood (walking aimlessly down a highway), his first car (a devastatingly powerful Karmann Ghia) and a tragic game of poker (in which he unconsciously threw a hand "to punish myself") give the book a refreshingly personal feel. And his anti-technology comments, despite smacking of a quaint traditionalism (he's prone to criticizing the pervasiveness of "information" by asking "Where is the romance in it? Where is the discovery?"), are generally thoughtful enough to merit serious consideration. He proposes, for instance, that our adherence to machines stems not merely from a desire to make our lives easier but from a fundamental need to be enslaved by another power. Rounding out the collection are essays about the roots of anti-Semitism and an Anglophilic gem, "Scotch Malt Whisky Society," in which the playwright uses his trademark ear for dialogue to describe the verbal thrust-and-parry of Scotch tasters in Edinburgh. Cleanly written, by turns profoundly personal and just plain profound, Mamet's collection offers the spectacle of a fierce intelligence at work and at play in the world. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

On turning 50, Mamet has collected 27 miscellaneous essays that record some of his experiences and opinions, from the sweater he prefers to a few thoughts on producers. The first essay, "Looking at Fifty," describes the "challenge-for-cause" list he uses to choose the films he watches: if a film has an element on the list, such as a slow-motion sequence of lovers, he has nothing further to do with that film. Readers might do well to develop such a list for collections of essays. Mamet is best known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and theater and film director; he has also written poetry, essays, and novels. Fifteen essays in this collection have appeared previously in slightly different forms. Comprehensive collections on film, theater, or American literature might be interested.ÄNancy Patterson Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.