Friday, April 24, 2020

Chicago, by David Mamet

Chicago: A Novel of Prohibition

Mamet is known for his dialogue (Alec Baldwin's monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross is maybe the best 7 minutes of film in existence) where characters often interrupt to finish each other's sentences, punctuated with obscenities. Chicago lives up to this reputation, filled with mobsters, whores, and reporters in a post-WWI era Windy City. Sadly, the writing overshadows the plot with the result feeling more like a badly edited short story stretched out to novel-length.

Nothing really happens in the first half of the book, and then another third has the "hero" trying to drink himself to death. The conversations are quite good and occasionally insightful ("Why do we lie? To obtain something from our listener.") and the individual scenes often are as well (I especially liked the discussion of why you shouldn't carry a gun or a flashlight when cracking a safe) but they are only tenuously connected and thinly strung together. It almost feels like a series of vignettes featuring Chicago, but the characters and settings don't change enough to pull this off. If you like the glib pen of Mamet this may hold your interest, but if you are looking for a gritty tale of mobsters during prohibition maybe check out Dennis Lehane's Live by Night instead.

First Sentence:
Parlow and Mike sat quiet in the duck blind.

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