David Mamet Has a Left-Right Shift That Sounds Familiar
Before long, when Finley didn’t budge, the books from Mamet stopped arriving, and Finley asked if he could send Mamet some books too. One of the first was A Conflict of Visions, by Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution. In it Sowell expands on the difference between the “constrained vision” of human nature—close to the tragic view that infuses Mamet’s greatest plays—and the “unconstrained vision” of man’s endless improvement that suffused Mamet’s politics and the politics of his profession and social class.
“He came back to me stunned. He said, ‘This is incredible!’ He said, ‘Who thinks like this? Who are these people?’ I said, ‘Republicans think like this.’ He said, ‘Amazing.’ ”
Finley piled it on, from the histories of Paul Johnson to the economics of Milton Friedman to the meditations on race by Shelby Steele.
“He was haunted by what he discovered in those books, this new way of thinking,” Finley says. “It followed him around and wouldn’t let him go.”
For years Mamet and Finley talked by phone at least once, sometimes twice a day. He became friends with Sowell and Steele, another Hoover Institution fellow. Mamet dedicated his most popular recent play, Race, to Steele.
A former literature professor, Steele told me he’d been an admirer of Mamet’s work since the 1970s and thought he’d detected signs of incipient conservatism in the plays.
“I think he has the same values today that he did before,” Steele said. “He’s said to me he thinks he might have always been conservative without knowing it. All that happened was, he finally found a politics that suited his values.”
I’ll be reviewing Mamet’s book as part of a series of book reviews I’ll be doing on what I’m describing as “the Hollywood Revolt.” Andrew Breitbart’s book will be first.
This shift narrative — of reading a bunch of books while arguing for an extended period with a conservative friend — is the same thing that I went through with David Horowitz. Sowell in particular is one that ex-leftists tend to drift toward regularly. I’ve filtered out all the old copies of Sowell’s books from the Freedom Center Library (translation: the tons of books that David has dropped off here at the Center.) They’re all sitting on my desk right now. That Sowell was a Marxist in his 20s probably plays a factor.