Three Uses of the Knife

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Three Uses of the Knife
AuthorDavid Mamet
CountryUnited States
SeriesThe Columbia Lectures on American Culture
PublisherColumbia University Press
Publication date
February 1998
Pages96 (first edition, clothbound)
808.2 21
LC ClassPN1631 .M26 1998

Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama is a book by David Mamet that discusses playwriting. In it, Mamet discusses the conscious and unconscious processes that go on in developing a work of art.

The essay, dedicated to Michael Feingold (a critic of The Village Voice), is divided in three chapters: "The Wind-Chill Factor", "Second Act Problems", and "Three Uses of the Knife".

The book's title stems from a quote from musician Lead Belly, appearing on page 66:

  • Huddie Ledbetter, also known as Leadbelly, said: You take a knife, you use it to cut the bread, so you'll have strength to work; you use it to shave, so you'll look nice for your lover; on discovering her with another, you use it to cut out her lying heart.

Another more significant quote from the book: "The subject of drama is The Lie. At the end of the drama THE TRUTH -- which has been overlooked, disregarded, scorned, and denied -- prevails. And that is how we know the Drama is done."[1]