Sunday, 3 February 2013

Arthur Miller

Now, I have a love-hate relationship with Arthur Miller.  First, "Death of a Salesman" - it said just about everything there was to say about growing up in the world as a post-war baby boomer.  I first saw the play as a teenager, a very impressionable age. This work is a master-class in dramatic form, and never loses its power to move me to tears.

Then, as the years go by, realising that he was a misogynistic and arrogant man, a bundle of self-obsession and entitlement.  Realising that he married Marilyn Monroe because he could, because he wanted to own that beautiful dream, come home to it every night (in his own words), until he found out he had got a wounded bird on his hands, a fragile thing which he couldn't handle at all.  Utterly unable to offer the support an insatiably needy creature demanded.

Then going back to the genius AM again, who simply expressed, apparently  with effortless clarity, a lifetime of being  an American.  (Although it was, of course, hard and dedicated workmanship that lay behind the flow of words).

And the MacCarthy witchhunts, which inspired that awfully depressing play "The Crucible" which I had to study at GCE O-level.  Again crafted to a particular and predictable conclusion, Thomas Hardy -esque in the inevitability of the hammer blows of fate which mount up to a tragedy.

Last week,  after hearing a dramatisation of the relationship between AM and his director Elia Kazan, on Radio 4's afternoon play slot, I took out of the library the playscript of  "After the Fall".  This, written by AM  and first directed by EK, "takes place entirely in the mind of Quentin" - it is thus the voice of the author.  All three of his wives appear in the play, as does his relationship with Elia Kazan.

You first think - the ego!  To write a play all about himself and taking place all inside his mind!  But then you have to respect his ability to read into the minds of women.  Particularly his first wife, who has left no lasting memory in the minds of the public, and therefore might appear as  a nobody, unlike his second, Marilyn Monroe, and his third, who outlived him and bore two children, one of whom is married to Daniel Day-Lewis.

As a first wife myself, (albeit still in situ, after more than thirty years), I could identify with a lot of what this  first wife character complained about.  Her complaints seemed entirely reasonable to me.

And here is how the errant and rebellious husband reacted to her complaints - his aide-memoire of things he could do better on:

"Know all, admit nothing, shave closely, remember birthdays, open car doors, pursue her not with truth but with attention."     

He's got it all there, and I have had issues with my husband on every one of those points. 

Of course, being a genius, he felt no need to take his own advice, but went out there and did exactly what he wanted (owned the blonde of the century).

Of course, being ordinary mortals, we ourselves at BB house could add to the list : "accept that your wife knows best on everything to do with the household, particularly kitchen management"  - but that's too mundane for AM (although the whereabouts of the household phone list did appear as a dialogue several lines long).

Probably AM  speaks for most of the husbands of the Western world.  That's genius.




1 comment:

  1. There is something fascinating about pictures of Miller with the beautiful MM.....he was sexy in a whole other way to her.

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