Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mamet Sells 100 Boxes of His Papers to Texas for Mystery Sum

Mamet Sells 100 Boxes of His Papers to Texas for Mystery Sum

By Edward Nawotka

April 18 (Bloomberg) -- David Mamet, the playwright, screenwriter and film director, has sold his archive to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Mamet, 59, is best known for his dramas about scam artists and unscrupulous businessmen, including ``American Buffalo'' and ``Glengarry Glen Ross,'' which won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize.

Mamet's archive joins those of his fellow dramatists Lillian Hellman and Tom Stoppard, as well as more recent acquisitions that include the papers of novelist Don DeLillo and costumes from actor Robert De Niro.

In a prepared statement, Mamet said, ``Having an archive in the care of the Ransom Center, in the care, if I may, of intelligent and dedicated enthusiasts, fulfilled both the fantasy of the parent, and that of the artist, who now, though absent, might envision a cost-free colloquy with a perfect interlocutor.''

The Ransom Center, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, has become known for its deep pockets and aggressive buying. In April 2003 it paid Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein $5 million for their Watergate papers. Two years later the center paid $2.5 million for novelist Norman Mailer's archive.

The money for acquisitions is derived in part from oil- producing land endowed to the university by the state of Texas.

100-Plus Boxes

The Mamet archive, which was purchased for an undisclosed amount, consists of more than 100 boxes of drafts, ephemera and correspondence.

While several unpublished manuscripts are also reported to be in the collection, the plum is some 175 daily journals Mamet kept from 1966 to 2001.

``I started keeping a journal over 40 years ago, and so established the habit of writing longhand,'' Mamet said. ``Virtually everything I've written since -- plays, screenplays, nonfiction and novels -- existed first in hardbound lined notebooks full of black or blue ink.''

Dr. Thomas F. Staley, director of the Harry Ransom Center, added, ``The journals illuminate Mamet's developing views on writing and directing, as well as performance and production. Mamet was a man aware of his times, and the journals reflect not only the evolution of American theater and culture but also the impulses that prompted them.''

Mamet's archive is paltry compared with some others at the center, such as movie mogul David O. Selznick's papers, which when purchased in 1980 filled more than 5,000 boxes and included the original storyboards for ``Gone With the Wind.''

In addition to some 36 million pages of manuscripts, the Harry Ransom Center boasts a Gutenberg Bible, a print of the world's first permanent photograph and the library and the archives of publisher Alfred A. Knopf.

(Edward Nawotka writes about the publishing industry for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)