Archives for posts with tag: David Mamet



Photographs and Text by Art Shay

Foreword by David Mamet (below)

I hear the Chicago accent, and I am a gone goose. Decades of living away, acting school, speech lessons, and the desire to make myself understood in a wider world are gone, and I am saying dese, dem and dose, and am back on the corner, tapping the other fellow on the forearm to make my point, and happy. Art Shay’s writing, and his photos, have the Chicago accent, which may be to say he’s telling you the truth as he knows it, as what right-thinking person would consider doing anything else?

I remember Algren’s Chicago. I remember Algren, sitting alone, in the back at Second City, regularly. I remember the pawnshops on West Madison street—I used to shop there; Sundays at Maxwell Street, and the ventors pulling on your arm and talking in Yiddish; police headquarters at 11th and State, and getting dragged down there on this or that bogus roust when I drove a cab. Art’s photographs are so real that I reflect that I, like them, must have all occurred in black and white.

I think it takes a realist to see the humor in things. I know it takes a realist to see the depth of tragedy. Art’s work feels like the guy tapping me on the forearm.


In the book’s preface, photographer Art Shay quotes Ernest Hemingway’s assessment of Nelson Algren, after reading The Man with the Golden Arm, “…He has been around a long time but only the pros know him…This is a man writing and you should not read it if you can’t take a punch. I doubt if any of you can. Mr. Algren can hit with both hands and move around and he will kill you if you are not awfully careful…Boy, Mr. Algren, you are good.” 


Chicago’s Nelson Algren is photographer Art Shay‘s account of visits during the 1950s to Chicago’s “lower depths” with novelist Nelson Algren — at the time, a resident of the city’s Near Northwest Side.

Here’s an excerpt from book’s description from the page:  Algren gave Shay’s camera entrance into the back-alley world of Division Street, and Shay captured Algren’s poetry on film. They were masters chronicling the same patch of ground with different tools. Chicago’s Nelson Algren... [is] a deeply moving homage to the writer and his city.




Monologue by David Mamet

MAN: In great American cities at l’heure bleue, airborne dust particles cause buildings to appear lightly outlined in black. The people hurry home. They take a taxi or they walk or crush into the elevated trains or subways; or they go into the library where it is open and sit down and read a magazine and wait a bit so that the crush of travelers will dissipate.

This is the Blue Hour.

The sky is blue and people feel blue.

When they look up they will see a light or “powder” blue is in the Western sky where, meanwhile, in the East the sky is midnight blue; and this shade creeps up to the zenith and beyond, and changes powder blue to midnight and, eventually, to black, whereat the buildings lose their outlines and become as stageflats in the glow of incandescent lamps. This is the Blue Hour—the American twilight as it falls today in the cities.

Painting:New York Street with Moon” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1925)


“In our beloved Windville we curse the cold and revel in being the most senseless spot in North America to spend the winter in. But the air feels new, and all things still seem possible, as they did to Willa Cather and Sherwood Anderson and Willard Motley and Hemingway and Frank Norris and Saul Bellow and all the other Chicago writers who — when speaking of Home — finally wrote the same story. It was and is a story of possibility, because the idea in the air is that the West is beginning, and that life is capable of being both understood and enjoyed.” DAVID MAMET, Excerpt from essay entitled “Chicago” in Writing in Restaurants (1986)

Note: Like myself, David Mamet is a Chicago native. I know of few other places in the world that inspire such deep and abiding affection among its current and former inhabitants — especially its writers — as does our beloved Windy City.