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Arthur Miller: 1915-1962 Hardcover – May 21, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 776 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674035054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674035058
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,236,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Bigsby has produced a thorough book that is unlikely to be surpassed in its wealth of detail. (Toby Young Mail on Sunday 2008-12-07)

[A] fascinating biography of Arthur Miller. (Nicholas de Jongh Evening Standard 2008-12-08)

[A] colossal biography...This is a fat, endlessly informative book, the work of a lifetime...It is as definitive as we are likely to get, with plenty of new material. It also reveals much more than Miller did in his autobiography, Timebends. Above all, it is a book about the puzzle of politics and art and about the unreliable solution provided by sex--or Marilyn Monroe as it was once called. (Bryan Appleyard Sunday Times 2008-12-14)

Christopher Bigsby's lengthy, sympathetic study contains electrifying new perspectives on its subject...The man who emerges from these pages is more of a showman than is usually credited and more of a modern hero, too. (Vanessa Thorpe The Observer 2008-12-14)

Bigsby gives a remarkably full account of this complex and somewhat remote figure...A richly detailed, revealing look at the making of a playwright and a man. (Kirkus Reviews 2009-03-15)

[A] multiperspective masterpiece, which surpasses all other Miller biographies, including his autobiography, Timebends. Bigsby gives the reader an intense and personal look at Miller's life, from his birth in 1915 to moderately affluent Jewish American parents and his college years working at a newspaper to his intense attraction and eventual marriage to Marilyn Monroe and his appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Everything is here, from the mundane to the revelatory. This detailed look at his life reveals his shared experiences as the basis for his sympathies for the common man. (Mark Alan Williams Library Journal 2009-04-15)

Bigsby leaves no facet of playwright Arthur Miller's life, public or private, unexamined in this literally and figuratively weighty tome...Although this volume covers only the first 48 of Miller's 89 years, the book is a definite godsend to theater lovers and generations of students probing Miller's life and work. (Jack Helbig Booklist (starred review) 2009-05-15)

A feature of this encyclopedic study of the first half of Miller's life is the excellence of the writing and the trans-Atlantic acuity of observation. Bigsby is always at home in Miller's America...Bigsby's extended defense of Miller's gut rejection of Kazan's apostasy is an intellectual triumph. (David Caute Spectator 2009-01-03)

Contains electrifying new perspectives on its subject...Miller, it's clear, was not a dry, cerebral naive but a principled, passionate talent, who recognized imperfection in himself and in others. The man who emerges from these pages is more of a showman than is usually credited and more of a modern hero, too. (Vanessa Thorpe The Observer 2008-12-14)

A landmark biography. (Toby Young Independent on Sunday 2008-12-14)

A masterly biography of Miller. (Tony Rennell Daily Mail 2008-12-20)

[A] magisterial biography...This is a must-read for anyone seriously interested in twentieth century theatre and particularly Miller's life and work...The author goes into remarkable detail based on years of research, to come to conclusions about the life of a man who at his best was perhaps the greatest American playwright of the last fifty years, or possibly ever. (Philip Fisher British Theatre Guide 2008-12-21)

[A] meteor-size new biography...Bigsby's book is crammed with piquant details. (Dwight Garner New York Times 2009-06-03)

Monumental...A portrait of a man with a passion for social (and racial) justice and a fierce belief in responsibility for one's own life, though Miller was often harder on himself than on others for not always living up to such ideals. (James Hebert creators.com 2009-06-12)

Thanks to Bigsby's research, particularly into previously unseen material, his account of Miller trying to hang on to his soul in midcentury America shows that he was large not least in his contradictions...What the book makes newly clear, though, is how much of Miller's work reflects his own personal struggles. (Jeremy McCarter New York Times Book Review 2009-06-28)

Christopher Bigsby has a perfect ear for the manners and motions of Miller's art, and he tells a gripping story of Miller's hunt for truth. There are mysteries to bear and ironies to become invested in--all good biographies must have their share--and yet the Miller who emerges from this book is ambiguous enough to become a beacon of the Cold War period...Bigsby's biography is so effective because it manages to locate Miller's art in terms both of the progression of his idealism and the regressions of his actual experience. There can't be many writers who appeared to live so much at the center of their times and who suffered so much from that seeming centrality...One of the coups of Bigsby's terrific biography is that it finally allows Miller to name the names he refused to name in 1956. (Andrew O'Hagan London Review of Books 2009-01-01)

[A] monumental new biography...Miller's art was a constant, arduous and often soul-searing process of working through themes from his life....[Bigsby's] book is a portrait of a man with a passion for social (and racial) justice and a fierce belief in responsibility for one's own life, though Miller was often harder on himself than on others for not always living up to such ideals. (James Hebert San Diego Union-Tribune 2009-06-07)

Christopher Bigsby is the first to offer a serious biography since Miller's death. (Robert Birnbaum The Morning News 2009-07-31)

Christopher Bigsby has very likely written the definitive biography of Miller...Bigsby has assiduously read countless unfinished scripts, unpublished stories, and drafts of Miller's plays, and he supplies abundant context so that the reader can compare Miller's views and social situations with those of his contemporaries. Bigsby takes extraordinary pains to explain how each play evolved and how it was received. He persuasively argues that Miller's career was shaped by a profound conviction that the theater could play a meaningful role in changing the world. Even if that belief appears overly hopeful, Miller's plays stand as a testament to his courageous capacity to explore dilemmas of civic conscience and the human heart. (Michael Kammen Boston Globe 2009-07-19)

About the Author

Christopher Bigsby is Professor of American Studies and Director of the Arthur Miller Centre at the University of East Anglia.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Brian Lewis on May 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
The story that Miller had to tell is one of the most central in American life, and it is one that few writers have really tackled. Christopher Bigsby, the author of this massive biography sums up Miller's central thesis as " an account of the struggle to find in the business of living the reason for living."

This biography of Arthur Miller is quite thorough, but I am afraid, awfully slow going. Bigsby moves chronologically trough Miller's life until the death of his second wife, Marilyn Monroe, and then covers the remaining 50 years in the book's final two chapters. But if we are in, say 1949, we will get two or three later recollections of events of that year. Miller's older brother Kermit, for example, writes a letter about how happy he is in the aftermath of World War II, but later comments from Kermit's son suggest that his father was manic depressive from the end of the war until his death. While this approach offers valuable insight, Bigsby relies on the tactic far too much and plowing through this book becomes a chore.

Bigsby pays far too much attention to politics, and not enough to Miller's plays. Bigsby spends a lot of time defending Miller's politics, in part by saying his flirtation with the Communist Party in the 1930s was just that.

But the fact that Miller was wildly wrong about Communism as a political system does not mean he was wrong about the devastating effects of capitalism on the Willy Lomans of the world.

Bigsby devotes more time to Marilyn Monroe and the House on Un American Activies Committee than he does to Miller's masterpieces. And I even skipped a chapter entitled HUAC.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By shavioctogenarian on April 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Christopher Bigsby is the leading specialist in the world on the subject of modern American drama in general and Arthur Miller in particular. He had written so much already on Miller it was amazing that he still had a great deal more up his sleeve to contribute.

ARTHUR MILLER 1915-1962 puts all previous biographical studies of Miller deeply in the shade. Detailed, probing background is its main feature. I plan to base an eight-hour course for retirees entirely on the Cold War/House UnAmerican Activities Committee atmosphere underlying the writing and reception of Miller's two most important plays, DEATH OF A SALESMAN and THE CRUCIBLE. This will range from the most accurate picture yet presented of Miller's gradually changing leftist stance that began in the thirties, all the way to the largely irrational, sometimes downright spooky responses to those plays from dogmatists on the right.

The book is also written lucidly and richly. It should be engrossing to ordinary readers and Miller scholars alike.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By B. Phillips on January 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is beautifully printed though there are typos, which shocks me from Harvard University Press. The reverential tone makes it tough going for me, and I read many biographies of theatrical and literary personages. Miller is important in theatre history and in the canon, but he isn't God – as his later life (in particular, the institutionalization of his high-functioning Down Syndrome son) – attests.
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