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Presence: Stories Paperback – December 2, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Alongside his achievements in 20th-century drama, Miller (1915–2005) published four previous works of fiction. This collection brings together six pieces that appeared in magazines at the end of Miller's life; all, in their ways, celebrate redemption through love. The blocked, aging writer of "The Bare Manuscript" hires a flesh-and-muscle six-foot-tall model, hoping to tap into the sexual vigor of his early genius by inscribing new work directly onto her body; what unspools are the sad story of his marriage and tender memories of courtship. In "Beavers," a country homeowner is mesmerized by the astounding energy of the beavers that appear one day in his pond, and whose redundant work seems to parallel the futility of human effort, yet also to bravely mimic human emotion. "The Performance" finds the Jewish head of an American tap-dancing troupe, in Berlin just before WWII, invited to perform in front of Hitler himself. A 13-year-old boy's life is transformed by getting a new puppy, or rather, by his sexual initiation with the woman who gives him the dog in the opening "Bulldog," while in the closing title story, an older man discovers a couple making love on the beach, triggering a flood of recollection. Miller's late work showcases inimitable writing and precipitous depths of longing. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Arthur Miller was born in New York City in 1915 and studied at the University of Michigan. His plays include All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953), A View from the Bridge and A Memory of Two Mondays (1955), After the Fall (1963), Incident at Vichy (1964), The Price (1968), The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972) and The American Clock. He has also written two novels, Focus (1945), and The Misfits, which was filmed in 1960, and the text for In Russia (1969), Chinese Encounters (1979), and In the Country (1977), three books of photographs by his wife, Inge Morath. More recent works include a memoir, Timebends (1987), and the plays The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (1991), The Last Yankee (1993), Broken Glass (1993), which won the Olivier Award for Best Play of the London Season, and Mr. Peter's Connections (1998). His latest book is On Politics and the Art of Acting. Miller was granted with the 2001 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He has twice won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and in 1949 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (December 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143114220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143114222
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,260,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Arthur Miller (1915-2005) was born in New York City in 1915 and studied at the University of Michigan. He was awarded the Avery Hopwood Award for Playwrighting at University of Michigan in 1936. He twice won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, received two Emmy awards and three Tony Awards for his plays, as well as a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. He also won an Obie award, a BBC Best Play Award, the George Foster Peabody Award, a Gold Medal for Drama from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Literary Lion Award from the New York Public Library, the John F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Algur Meadows Award. He received honorary degrees from Oxford University and Harvard University and was awarded the Prix Moliere of the French theatre, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Lifetime Achievement Award and the Pulitzer Prize, as well as numerous other awards. He was named the Jefferson Lecturer for the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2001. He was awarded the 2002 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters and the 2003 Jerusalem Prize.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While nothing Arthur Miller ever wrote will ever be as good as his magnificent play DEATH OF A SALESMAN, this latest collection off short stories, PRESENCE, published posthumously have all the depth and evocativeness we would expect from such a great writer. Six stories are included: "Bulldog," "The Performance," "Beavers," "The Bare Manuscript," "The Turpentine Still" and the title story "Presence."

All the stories are told almost entirely from the viewpoint of a male, often middle-aged or even old. (In "The Turpentine Still" the character is Levin who at the end of this longest of stories included is in his seventies.) He is often a writer ("The Bare Manuscript," "The Turpentine Still," and "The Performance") usually lives in New York and has left political leanings and tends toward introspection and sometimes melancholia. Some of these characters remind of us Mr. Miller but whether they are autobiographical does not matter.

In "The Bulldog," set in the late 1920's or early 30's since the narrator tells us that Satchel Paige was pitching for the Negro leagues, a youngster of thirteen living in New York answers an ad in the newspaper for a black brindle bull puppy for three dollars. He gets more than the puppy, however, as he has his first sexual experience with the woman who had run the ad in the paper-- "he felt like a waterfall was smashing down on top of his head. He remembered getting inside her heat and his head banging and banging against the leg of her couch"-- and the lad is "secretly" changed forever. In "The Performance" Harold May is a Jewish tap-dancer telling his story to an unnamed narrator. And what a story it is. He was hired to give a one-night-only performance before a mysterious German in Berlin who turns out to be Hitler, himself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JMack VINE VOICE on February 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Legendary Playwright Arthur Miller is best remembered for such works as "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible". Yet Miller was an accomplished short story writer, even in his later years. This collection, published posthumously, demonstrates Miller's writing at its unflinching finest.

Six short stories are included in this collection, one titled "Presence" among them. This story, last in the collection, follows an aged man visiting the location of a love affair on the beach from his youth. Somewhat haunting in nature, readers are left to wonder whether the images are real. "Bulldog" begins the set with a story of what an adolescent is willing to do to have a dog. "The Performance", a flashback to anti-semetic themes in many of Miller's earlier works, shows a performer with a strong opportunity. The opportunity is predictably tainted, forcing the performer to make a choice. "Beavers" shows a rural man remorsefully dealing with his pest problem. Writer's block is remedied in a unique way in "The Bare Manuscript". This story seems so outrageous that one must wonder if there is a grain of truth to it. The longest story in the set is "The Turpentine Still". Miller's political views are apparent as Haiti is the setting. Revisiting a site where homes of a better tomorrow once lived, the main character must reconcile past decisions to be at peace with himself.

At just over 160 pages, the collection is brief. Unfortunately, many potential audience members may not even know of the publication of this set. I only found a copy by chance. Fans of Arthur Miller are certain to enjoy this posthumous collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on February 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed Foster Corbin's review of the final Arthur Miller book PRESENCE, a collection of six stories, but I don't actually agree with him about the ways the book works and doesn't work. What I liked about it is its variety; it seems in old age Miller was given a last outburst of creativity and imagination, and this final explosion of imagination led him to try some risky experiments. Each story is actually packed with incident, as though he had a zillion stories inside of him, in contrast to the years of the 40s and 50s when his writing was tortured and slow to come, years would pass before he felt able to conceive of a storyline big enough to hold down all the symbolism he wanted to pack into it. Now take a story like "The Rare Manuscript." Every page tells a different back story for the two main characters, Clement and Lena, and you get the feeling that Miller was enjoying the prodigality of his invention here, and that Clement's Peter Greenaway-esque desire to write all over Lena's nude body with a Magic Marker is an allegory for the experience of creativity itself. There's also an erotic strain that runs throughout the whole book; someone must have been feeding Miller those old monkey glands, for he is feeling his oats not only in "The Rare Manuscript," but in several other tales of adolescent need and desire.

What I don't like about it especially is that none of it makes any sense, and someone should have talked him out of publishing "The Performance," at least in its final form here. It must have seemed a good idea, a tap dancer versus Adolf Hitler! -- but it just falls flat.
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Format: Paperback
Presence, by Arthur Miller (168 pgs., 2004, 2007). I can't remember if I ever knew that this most famous of American playwrights ever wrote prose. He did. This is his third published collection of short stories. How could I have missed coming upon the other two? I feel like an idiot. Not only did he write short stories, but he's published four fiction novels, three books of essays, & five non-fiction books (including an autobiography & three books of his travels). He's also has 20 full-length plays published & performed in addition to some half-dozen one-act plays. I never realized how prolific he was.
The first short story collection was published in 1967 & the second collection was published in 1995. I missed them both. I even missed reading his stories in the magazines in which they were originally published. For instance, of the six plays in this collection three were originally published in THE NEW YORKER, one in HARPER'S, one in ESQUIRE & one in the SOUTHWEST REVIEW.
This is a slim volume, but it packs a wallop of emotion. Many of these stories could have been turned into plays. "The Bare Manuscript," is one of the most original stories I've read. An author, who got famous young, is in a stalled writing career with a deteriorating marriage. He gets the idea to change the quality of the blank page in his typewriter. He decides to use living flesh. How he does this & the emotions that arise flesh out the rest of this story. The longest story in this collection is "The Turpentine Still." It contains 52 pages. The bare outline is boring. An American couple trying to jazz up their marriage journey to Haiti & want to help make it better.
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