Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Review: Arthur Miller 1962-2005

Life of a talesman: final act

    M&M: Miller and Marilyn Monroe
    M&M: Miller and Marilyn Monroe

    by Christopher Bigsby
    Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £30

    It always seemed odd that the plays of the very American Arthur Miller were better received in this country than they were in the US. But it is still a shock to read in this second, substantial volume of Christopher Bigsby's biography - dealing with the years up to Miller's death - just how hard American critics were on the playwright.

    The response to After the Fall, the first of Miller's plays to be written after the writer's damaging break-up with Marilyn Monroe was especially vicious. This despite Miller having written, in Death of a Salesman, one of the three pillars that define the American 20th-century dramatic canon (along with O'Neill's Long Day's Journey and Williams's Streetcar).

    Bigsby dismantles several of the most extreme attacks on his subject simply by quoting them. Unadorned, the New York Times review of Broken Glass, calling Miller "the world's most overrated dramatist", just looks silly.

    Bigsby reveals After the Fall to be the first artistic expression of this hitherto quintessentially American writer's international outlook - which also embraced his Jewishness as never before.

    The trigger was the new woman in his life, photographer Inge Morath. The daughter of Nazis, Morath took Miller to Mauthausen. She was the emotional lifeline that led Miller, who had largely rejected his Jewish roots, to write extensively about the Holocaust.

    He threw himself into the turbulent politics of the period - or sometimes was just present when stuff happened: in the Chelsea Hotel when Warhol was shot; in Cambodia when Nixon started bombing the country. And the sympathetic chronicler Bigsby puts the much criticised decision by Miller and Morath to put their Down's Syndrome son, Daniel, into a home, into the context of 1960s attitudes and understanding.

    Together, both volumes of Bigsby's biography cement Miller's status, in Britain at least if not America, probably best described by the British director David Thacker, with whom Miller collaborated: "A little lower than Shakespeare and a little higher than God."

The Jewish Chronicle

Review: Reunion

Amanda Hopkinson

Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: Reunion
Books

A taste for forbidden flavours

Michael Kaminer

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A taste for forbidden flavours
The Jewish Chronicle

Jodi Picoult competition entry form

Keren David

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Jodi Picoult competition entry form
The Jewish Chronicle

Review: Freud: In His Time and Ours

Stephen Frosh

Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: Freud: In His Time and Ours
Books

Jodi Picoult - The book that changed me

Keren David

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Jodi Picoult - The book that changed me
Books

Review: Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East b...

Robert Philpot

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review: Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East b...
Books

Can you solve these knotty problems?

Daniel Sugarman

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Can you solve these knotty problems?
Books

Getting ahead is a slice of pie

Suzanne Levy

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Getting ahead is a slice of pie
The Jewish Chronicle

Review: A Horse Walks Into A Bar

Stoddard Martin

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review: A Horse Walks Into A Bar