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Glengarry Glen Ross - Mamet's Writing Style

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I've seen a lot of his films (though none of his plays live) and this is the first play of his I've read. His writing style is very rhythmic but sometimes it seems over the top.


MOSS: Look at Gerry Graf. He's clean, he's doing business for himself, he's got his, he's got that list of his with the nurses...see? You see? That's thinking. Why take ten per cent? A ten per cent comm...why are we giving the rest away? What are we giving ninety per...for nothing. For some jerk sit in the office tell you 'Get out there and close.' 'Go win the Cadillac.' Graff. He goes out and buys. He pays top dollar for the..you see?


Obviously on the stage I have no doubt it comes alive, but we aren't reading an actors' rehearsal.

I'd have to give it a Yes on the stage and a No on the page.

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This is really just to let everyone know that I did read the play. I have to agree that I found it a little difficult to get my head round. I suppose the dialogue was very true to type, but somehow the whole thing didn't really move me any any literary way. Maybe it's not my style.


Perhaps others are right and it would be great on stage, but just not off the page.

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This is really just to let everyone know that I did read the play. I have to agree that I found it a little difficult to get my head round. I suppose the dialogue was very true to type, but somehow the whole thing didn't really move me any any literary way. Maybe it's not my style.


Perhaps others are right and it would be great on stage, but just not off the page.


I also read the play. I would agree with Barblue it was difficult to get a sense of the play by just reading. Definitely one to see not read.

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Then, Kelby, you should check out the film State and Main (Mamet was writer/director). It's a funny, tasteful, utterly delightful send-up of Hollywood glitz and hypocrisy. Not much cussing that I remember...quite anomalous if you've read his other works.


Yeah, I know Mamet's language can be problematic - I live in an area of rather conservative theatregoers and probably couldn't direct American Buffalo even at the university. (We have folks who walk out if actors say d**n too many times on stage, and I'm not joking.) I did see a production of Sexual Perversity... in grad school and wasn't terribly offended, just thought it kind of vapid. Not my thing, I guess. Maybe vapidity (?) is the whole point.

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I think some playwrights do it for the shock value. Regarding profanity: I can understand wanting to authentically portray the way some people talk, especially the sleazy characters Mamet often writes about - but too many f-bombs and it becomes just plain silly and dull - the play loses its impact for me.

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I also think some writers do it to keep certain kinds of people from viewing their work. For example, profanity and violence are effective ways to keep Fundamentalist Christians, who may object to the themes in the writer's material, from viewing it. Watching one of Martin Scorsese's gangster movies, or even just hearing about his reputation, keeps away some of the most critical people of his work. People who are critical of his style can't even stomach watching it, so they don't. It actually gives writers the opportunity to focus on their target audience without too much criticism from those who aren't their target audience, as those people aren't likely to view it.

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I also think some writers do it to keep certain kinds of people from viewing their work. For example, profanity and violence are effective ways to keep Fundamentalist Christians, who may object to the themes in the writer's material, from viewing it.


Well said. Some literature is just not for the fainthearted. I'll soon be directing two one-act plays by a friend of mine, and due to some profanity and "adult" dialogue (though not as extreme as some of Mamet's work, and no worse than you can see on cable TV) we must post advisories. (I have to live in this town, after all!) Of course, that has the opposite effect on certain sectors of the population, as in film - it may attract some audience members who can't wait to see their friends cuss on stage!


Violence, especially of the gratuitous variety, I have some issues with, being rather squeamish. Though I admire the Coen brothers' work - and liked Fargo, for instance - some of it was very hard for me to watch. It's a bummer - I have to miss what are probably some outstanding films.

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I don't mind some 'adult' language but mamet's work is rubbish. He appears to be trying to get merit just on his coarse language.

No, I'll have to disagree with you there. There is a great deal of merit in what he writes, with or without the profanity. Take out the profanity and he is still one of the most creative writers out there. What he does with language is examine what we say, why we say it, how we say it; then he breaks it down and puts it back together in his own way. People repeat themselves. They repeat themselves a lot. They speak in snippets. No lengthy speeches for Mamet. Short and to the point. They interrupt each other. Just like conversation. It's quite surreal. But it all has a purpose.


Even if you were to watch a Mamet movie with less profanity, like The Spanish Prisoner, and then watch something with a little more profanity, like Heist, you would see that, profanity aside, the merit in his language remains the same. He still has the same mood, the acting is the same, and the dialogue is still great.


I'm not a huge fan of profanity or violence. However, I don't let its presence or absence affect my overall view of a novel or movie. I may enjoy a vulgar novel or movie less than a non-vulgar one, but the effect is marginal. I put the plot, characters, imagery, and ideas all first, as they should be. Focusing in on the profanity alone and using it as the determining factor as to whether one enjoys the work or not is being too concerned with minutiae and failing to look at the work from a wider perspective. There is plenty of merit to Mamet's writing, particularly his use of language. I suggest putting your issues with his use of profanity aside when analyzing the whole of the work. Rate the work separate from the vulgar language--that's where the merit lies.


Salvador Dali had the same problems when he was painting. There were some who didn't get his paintings. There were some who claimed they were vulgar. However, those people couldn't look beyond the item in question and see the talent apparent in the work. It's fine to say that you don't like to see a piano being sodomized or a man who has soiled himself, but does that mean it lacks merit? Does that mean the painting is rubbish? Does that mean Dali was trying to get merit by the vulgar item alone? Maybe there was a purpose in putting that in the painting or even making it the main focus of the work. What might that purpose have been, I wonder?

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Unfortunately, I haven't read the whole play, only the first few pages from Google Books. What I did read was quite good--certainly not rubbish. However, with a title like Sexual Perversity in Chicago, I would think that should be a clue to the content, and enough warning for people who are sensitive to potentially vulgar or profane material. I would say that you are not the target audience of this play. Is that Mamet's fault? I believe he gave fair warning when titling it.


You say you don't know why anyone would want to read it. Well, I want to read it (but I'd much rather see a production of it), so I'll tell you why I do. Mamet is brilliant with dialogue. He does with words what Dali did with paint. He actually tries to give audiences something different. More than any other screenwriter or director (but I'm confident it applies to his plays as well), his style is uniquely his own. I could turn on the T.V. or walk into any theater and watch for only a few seconds and I'd instantly know that was Mamet. In this homogeneous and standardized world, Mamet is a breath of fresh air. Plus, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, if I'm not mistaken, deals with the battle of the sexes--something that fascinates me. I very much want to read/watch it.


In reading the first few pages, I, like you, wish it would be less vulgar, but that's life. As to the content: I've read the title, so I won't complain if it is sexually explicit, raunchy, or otherwise debauched, as I've been forewarned. I have an idea of who the target audience is and what the content will be. I won't criticize it if it lives up to its warnings.

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I've read books with 'adult content' but it just appeared to be laden with 'sicko' content.

There's loads of playwrights that have their own style- for example Tennessee Williams' had a very distinct style.

mamet is one of those 'ooh, we're 70's playwrights and now we can write loads of shocking rude things'.

Oh, Pinter's a bit boring too.

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awful... disgusting... shocking rude things...
You will never get very far with contemporary works if you constantly substitute moralising judgments for aesthetic ones.
Oh, Pinter's a bit boring too.
Ditto. And, on the contrary, when it's well done, Pinter can be absolutely riveting. Pinter's characters may often find themselves dealing with boredom, but that's central to his preoccupations.
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I like some contemporary works but I prefer ones where vulgar language is secondary, not primary.

Secondary to what? Based on my experience with Mamet, he sometimes has rough, vulgar characters, so the profanity is part of the character. He has done some screenplays with non-vulgar characters--a British period piece, The Winslow Boy, and one involving some non-violent criminals, The Spanish Prisoner. In those cases it was unlikely the characters would be vulgar, so he didn't put any swearing in--which means, contrary to your theory, he doesn't just inject profanity for the sake of shock or simply because he's a 70s' playwright and now he can write loads of shocking, rude things.


Plus, like it or not, some people do talk that way. If you've ever seen an uncensored Mamet interview, you'll see that he's quite a vulgar man himself. It's the environment that he knows. Are you going to say that no one swears in America? Are you going to deny Mamet his observations about rough-living, vulgar people? He's not doing it only for shock. He's not doing it simply because he can. I do believe he has a point to make with it, and the point is simple: rough people use rough language. I had a boss one time who swore just like Mamet. He certainly wasn't a 70s' playwright. He wasn't exactly a criminal (note I said 'exactly'), but he was a pretty rough, intimidating guy. Mamet's use of profanity corresponds exactly with the type of personality of that boss. That's life.

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But I was trying to get hold of a david mamet book I read about 8 years ago. I remember it was about a jewish factory worker whose life was ruined by rape/murder accusation(I know there is a big difference between the two but it was one or the other) it was based on a true story. It was like a really great bob dylan song. Anyone know the title.

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