From one book of essays to another; from one book which I found essential to another which I found to be the total opposite, and it pains to me say that. I like David Mamet – I like his films and I like the plays that I have read; I’ve enjoyed a couple of interviews too, where I found his insight into human behaviour and the craft of writing to be interesting and invaluable; I picked up this book expecting the same, thinking the quality of the writing would be a sure bet. I was disappointed.
I found Jafsie and John Henry to be unengaging and on the whole outright boring. I really struggled with this book and it is not a big book, but I had to put it down, give it a rest, and come back to it. I wished to persist and get through to the end of it in the hope that somewhere in the back half of the book (I literally stopped half way) I might find something that made the whole thing worthwhile. While there was nothing that did this for me I can say that the remainder of what I read slightly tempered my opinion and turned me towards a less aggressive opinion of the book.
So, what was the problem with it? The choice of subjects? Perhaps. But I think it was the general feeling it left me with – that I was taking a very pedestrian stroll through trodden down areas with a guide who was just waffling on about stuff even he wasn’t that enthusiastic about; it was as if Mamet had been possessed for the length of this book by the spirit of Bill Bryson. I know some people will probably want to beat me for not liking the cuddly travel writer but his brand of smug, timid pussyfooting around everything has always bugged me – it is the textual equivalent of being smothered with a big wooly jumper and I honestly never expected to get that from Mamet. Please, stick with the screenplays and stage productions where I think Mamet really lives and breathes, and don’t bother with this.