Jafsie and John Henry Essay - Critical Essays

Jafsie and John Henry

In Jafsie and John Henry, David Mamet boldly attacks and analyzes everything from knives to Hollywood to The Diary of Anne Frank. He is driven by his concerns at turning fifty, and is not afraid to say it like it is.

In “Black Cashmere Sweater,” Mamet shows an uncharacteristic tenderness in his appreciation for having owned and worn an identical cashmere sweater for many, many years. In “Scotch Malt Whisky Society,” he shares his delicious inclusion in the tasting sessions of the Society, the eight or so men who decide the fate of much of Scotland’s best whisky. In “Knives,” he attacks the folding knife, and reminds readers why the non-folding knife is better. “L.A. Homes” attacks many of Hollywood’s wealthiest for having homes and interiors and art that they do not deserve. And in “December 24,” he suggests that The Diary of Anne Frank is inappropriate as entertainment.

The essays are loosely connected through the title, explored in “Brompton Cocktail.” Jafsie was the man possibly responsible for the questionable conviction of Bruno Hauptmann in the Lindberg kidnapping trial, and possibly guilty himself; and John Henry was the hero, who, in fighting the steam drill as a symbol of technology, died. These two are used to examine society’s ability to ignore reality and to allow the computer and television to actually destroy us. These essays are hard-hitting, unapologetic, and brutal. Mamet’s voice is rare and extremely important.