THE CABIN derives its title from a rustic piece of property in Vermont that Mamet owns. His title essay, little more than an elaborate inventory of the cabin’s contents, reflects the proud idiosyncrasy of its owner. So, too, do the loving description of his Victorian row house in Boston and the catalogue of the varied buttons that decorate his writing desk. Mamet recollects time spent in Quebec, London, Scotland, and Cannes and manual jobs in a truck factory, diner, and taxi cab. He rails against canned music and exults in his passion for fine guns. He provides anecdotal evidence of his stepfather’s brutality and his father’s generosity.
Chicago is the focus of Mamet’s most vivid and affectionate memories. He evokes the Jewish neighborhood of Euclid Avenue where he grew up, Wabash Avenue through the eyes of a child, and the Hotel Lincoln where he lived as a young man. Declaring that: “Igrew up on the WFMT voice,” Mamet celebrates that radio station asa “particularly Chicagoan admixture of the populist and the intellectual.” The same might be said of Mamet himself, whose short, bare sentences—in these essays, as in such plays as AMERICAN BUFFALO and GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS—bounce off one another in quirky ways. Much of THE CABIN flirts with banality, flaunting the unexceptional observations of a famous author. But much of it, as when Mamet makes his peace with golf, “some bastard amalgam of billiards and hiking,” accomplishes its goal with a few deft strokes.