Arthur Miller


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American Witness

John Lahr

View Inside Format: Hardcover
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A great theater critic brings twentieth-century playwright Arthur Miller’s dramatic story to life with bold and revealing new insights
“Lahr’s cogent analyses are revelatory. . . . He does not reduce the work to the life, but shows how it explains the life from which it emerges.”—Willard Spiegelman, Wall Street Journal
New Yorker critic Lahr shines in this searching account of the life of playwright Arthur Miller. . . . It’s a great introduction to a giant of American letters.”—Publishers Weekly
Distinguished theater critic John Lahr brings unique perspective to the life of Arthur Miller (1915–2005), the playwright who almost single-handedly propelled twentieth-century American theater to a new level of cultural sophistication. Organized around the fault lines of Miller’s life—his family, the Great Depression, the rise of fascism, Elia Kazan and the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Marilyn Monroe, Vietnam, and the rise and fall of Miller’s role as a public intellectual—this book demonstrates the synergy between Arthur Miller’s psychology and his plays.
Concentrating largely on Miller’s most prolific decades of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Lahr probes Miller’s early playwriting failures; his work writing radio plays during World War II after being rejected for military service; his only novel, Focus; and his succession of award-winning and canonical plays that include All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, and The Crucible, providing an original interpretation of Miller’s work and his personality.

John Lahr has been a contributor to the New Yorker since 1991, where for twenty-one years he was its senior drama critic. He is the author of eighteen books, including Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography.

Visit the author’s website at

“Lahr’s cogent analyses [in Arthur Miller] are revelatory but not surgical, and his sympathy never cloys. He does what a good literary biographer must do: He does not reduce the work to the life, but shows how it explains the life from which it emerges. He is an investigative reporter, a profiler of personality, mind and character, and a critic who understands drama on the page and in the house.”—Willard Spiegelman, Wall Street Journal

Named by the New Yorker as a Best Book of 2022

New Yorker critic Lahr shines in this searching account of the life of playwright Arthur Miller. . . . It’s a great introduction to a giant of American letters.”—Publishers Weekly

“An engaging summary of a celebrated and checkered career.”—Kirkus Reviews

“In this succinct and gorgeously written portrait, the former New Yorker drama critic and award-winning biographer of Tennessee Williams offers a keen psychological appraisal of Miller’s works, and of Miller himself.”—Julia Klein, Boston Globe

“John Lahr’s slender, sharp biography offers an engaging account of the playwright’s life, beginning with his New York childhood. Lahr also provides a penetrating interpretation of Arthur Miller’s canonical works.”—Christian Science Monitor, “November’s 10 Best Books”

“With this admirably brief book, Mr. Lahr, a prominent theater critic, delivers a no-filler biography that still leaves room for his keen critical insights.”—Kurt Wenzel, East Hampton Star

“No one writes about playwrights and the theater the way John Lahr does. In this probing, brilliantly insightful, and also deeply readable and entertaining book, he offers unique insight into how Miller’s mind works, and how the details of his biography impacted his body of work.”—Sarah Ruhl, MacArthur Prize–winning playwright

“Lahr lets us see the great American playwright with new eyes. After his highly acclaimed Tennessee Williams biography, Lahr scores a second smash hit with Arthur Miller. No one writes more perceptively about the twentieth-century theater than John Lahr.”—John Guare, playwright, Six Degrees of Separation

“A superbly written, impeccably researched biography from the great John Lahr. The close relationship between Miller and his plays is detailed and sympathetic. A classic book about a classic American playwright.”—André Bishop, artistic director, Lincoln Center Theater

“In Arthur Miller, the great critic and biographer John Lahr has found a perfect subject: complex, gifted, a man of his times. This is biography-as-collaboration, and utterly captivating.”—Hilton Als, Pulitzer Prize–winning essayist and author
ISBN: 9780300234923
Publication Date: November 1, 2022
264 pages, 5 3/4 x 8 1/4
1 b/w illus.
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