Yesterday I made the mistake of pulling Christopher Bigsby’s latest book from the library shelf. Arthur Miller: A Critical Study (2005) will, I assume, be Bigsby’s final statement on Miller.
“Although he refused the mechanical determinism of the unthinking Marxist left, he created in his greatest play a drama in which it is impossible to avoid thinking about economics–money–in any attempt to render coherent the human tragedy unfolding before you.”
Miller’s politics made him an enemy of the Right when he balked at the hypocrisy of anti-communist politicking, and an enemy of the Left when his “confused liberalism” (in the words of Eric Mottram) was deemed unsatisfactory at a time of revolutionary struggle. Miller, for his part, seemed most interested in simply understanding the human causes of human troubles. The work of the artist, you might say.
After living with Miller for the last few days — after rereading The Crucible and After the Fall and a three inch stack of photocopied criticism — I’ve come to one significant conclusion: I don’t like Miller. His early work shows an obvious knack for wrenching every last drop of sentiment and inevitable heartbreak from a tragic narrative, but, damn, they are really unpleasant to read. His language is starving for poetry.
No new Cine Club notes this week, as we decided spontaneously last night (and with mixed results) to watch John Huston’s The Misfits (1961). I love parts of the film — Thelma Ritter’s jokes and Montgomery Clift’s performance, in particular — and I think it’s a fascinating film to talk about.
Aug 16, 2004