A volume of essays, 1994–99, by one of America’s most prominent American playwrights—an engaged intellectual and public figure who has remained abreast of the major political, social, and cultural events for over half of the last century.
Miller’s style varies from lyrical prose (when he recollects his childhood spent in Brooklyn or confesses his admiration for the engineering wonder of the Brooklyn Bridge) to analytical commentary (on McCarthyism or the Frankfurt Nazi trial). The accounts of his Italian misadventures (when he was “kidnapped” by a well-meaning fan and courted by a powerful Sicilian Mafia baron) are full of humorous observations and genuine irony. But when he turns to the murky years of Turkish military rule and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Miller becomes a serious and ardent political advocate. The story of his philosophical debate with a diehard American Communist in China is at once an insightful study of human nature and an exposition of the author’s strongest convictions. Understandably, however, theater remains Miller’s primary theme throughout the years, as he comments on various productions of his own plays around the globe and reviews the works of his peers. And his political and theatrical inclinations are both illustrated in his call (first raised in the 1950s) to do away with the American playwright’s “homelessness” through the establishment of government subsidies for the theater—a call that remains unanswered.
Miller comes across as an engaging and honest interlocutor, and many readers will surely enjoy his wit and intellect. Even if some of his opinions rub the wrong way, the logic behind his arguments and the sheer breadth of his knowledge will nevertheless be appreciated.