Miller, 89, dies

“You know,” he said, “a playwright lives in an occupied country. He’s the enemy. And if you can’t live like that, you don’t stay. It’s tough. He’s got to be able to take a whack, and he’s got to swallow bicycles and digest them.” From The New York Times obituary of Arthur Miller, who died of congestive heart failure yesterday.
Writing about The Crucible in 2000, he had this to say:
“My fictional view of the period, my sense of its unreality had been, like any impotence, a psychologically painful experience. A similar paralysis descended on Salem. In both places, to keep social unity intact, the authority of leaders had to be hardened and words of scepticism toward them constricted. A new cautionary diction, an uncustomary prudence inflected our way of talking to one another. The word socialism was all but taboo. Words had gotten fearsome.”
And here’s a favourite story, pinched from Jay Nordinger:
“While I’m on Arthur Miller, I might as well tell my favorite Arthur Miller story — at least, I think it’s an Arthur Miller story. I heard it once; don’t know whether it’s true.
Miller meets an old high-school classmate in a restaurant. The classmate says, “Art? Art Miller? Good to see you. It’s been years.” He then asks Miller what he does for a living, which takes the famous playwright somewhat aback.
Miller: “Um, I’m a writer.”
Classmate: “Really? That’s great. What do you write?”
Miller: “Um, plays, mostly.”
Classmate: “Plays? Terrific. Any success?”
Miller: “Did you ever hear of Death of a Salesman?”
The classmate gets wide-eyed. For a few seconds, he can’t speak. Then he says, “You’re Arthur Miller?”

3 comments

  1. Thanks for that story. It brightened up the bad news, which I just gave to my wife and mother-in-law, both of whom are huge Miller fans as we all are.Bud Parr

  2. Great story, Babu.Hey, I wonder if we could try to do a count of how many of the headlines in the next few days will be “Death of a Playwright” or “Death of a Dramatists.” Journos are so fond of lazy allusions (yes, I know, I know, I’m so fond of being acerbic…).Good night, Mr Miller. Thanks for writing.elck

  3. A similar (well sort of!) story from ET Bell’s Men of Mathematics: ‘Once when travelling as a young man, Daniel modestly introduced himself to an interesting stranger with whom he was conversing, “I am Daniel Bernoulli.” “And I,” said the other sarcastically, “am Isaac Newton.” This delighten Daniel to the end of his days as the sincerest tribute he had ever received.’

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