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Focus (Penguin Modern Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Arthur Miller
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A reticent personnel manager living with his mother, Mr Newman shares the prejudices of his times and of his neighbours - and neither a Hispanic woman abused outside his window nor the persecution of the Jewish store owner he buys his paper from are any of his business. Until Newman begins wearing glasses, and others begin to mistake him for a Jew.

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Product Description

About the Author

American dramatist Arthur Miller was born in New York City in 1915. In 1938 Miller won awards for his comedy The Grass Still Grows. His major achievement was Death of a Salesman, which won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for drama and the 1949 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. The Crucible was aimed at the widespread congressional investigation of subversive activities in the US; the drama won the 1953 Tony Award. Miller's autobiography, Timebends: A Life was published in 1987.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 691 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 Oct. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005O12B70
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #372,644 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Arthur Miller (1915-2005) was born in New York City in 1915 and studied at the University of Michigan. During his lifetime he was celebrated as the pre-eminent playwright of his generation and won numerous awards for his work including two New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards, two Emmy awards and three Tony Awards for his plays, as well as a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. His 1949 play Death of a Salesman was the first play to scoop all three major US awards: the New York Critics Circle Award, a Tony Award for Best Author and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His many plays include All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, A Memory of Two Mondays, After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, The Price, The Creation of the World and Other Business, and The American Clock; later plays include Broken Glass, Resurrection Blues and the aptly-titled Finishing the Picture. His other published work includes the novel Focus, The Misfits which was filmed in 1960, two collections of short stories, the memoir Timebends and various volumes of non-fiction including three books in collaboration with his wife, photographer Inge Morath.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh no not the jews again. 7 July 2015
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a decent book. He is a far better playwright than a novelist, thank god he didnt give up his day job. I didnt realise that New Yorkers are so anti-semitic. The city that never sleeps comes across as cosmopolitan. Id recommend people read this in tandem with THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA by P Roth which is the better book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Focus By Arthur Miller 29 Nov. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An investigation into anti-semitism. Where and how prejudices arise from and how on an individual level prejudice can be broken down.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as his classic Death of a Salesman 8 Sept. 2001
The book is on a contemporary subject: anti-semitism. When you start to read it, you just can't stop.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's A Good Book 7 Oct. 2014
It's a good book about newspaper vendors, cigars and dogs. Enjoy.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a rare gem reminiscent of Carver, Mamet and even Highsmith 14 Nov. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Arthur Miller's "Focus" is a brilliant indictment of anti-Semitism in America. It was first published in 1945 and hasn't lost an iota of its relevance or power since then. In fact, it may be even more timely today than it was in the 1940s. One of the most surprising things about "Focus" is just how suspenseful it is. Miller makes his beleaguered hero's plight as riveting as a Patricia Highsmith novel. The dialog is witty and sharp and prefigures both David Mamet and Raymond Carver. Miller has an amazing ability to reveal a character's thoughts in lines of dialog that say exactly the opposite of what that character is really thinking. He also has a knack for exposing the tortured reasoning of those who abandon their ideals in a misguided effort to fit in with the crowd. Miller understands that sometimes it's not so much a desire to belong that inspires such an abandonment, as it is a desire to be left alone. But finding yourself left alone can sometimes be the most dangerous thing that can happen to a person.
Miller brilliantly exploits his protagonist's need for eye-glasses as a metaphor for the shortsidedness at the heart of all bigotry. Ironically, the spectacles that help Lawrence Newman better perceive the world around him are the very instruments that cause him to be so dangerously mispercieved by his bigotted neighbors and business colleagues. And only when he finds himself so radically misunderstood by his former "friends" is Newman able to understand his own racial myopia. This is a brilliant and beautiful novel, which never gives in to politicking or preachiness and remains gripping to its very satisfying final paragraph.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, powerful, and impossible to put down. 20 Feb. 2002
By Carole Barkley - Published on
The WASPish main character, Lawrence Newman, learns about bigotry first hand when, after getting fitted with eyeglasses, he is suddenly perceived as "looking Jewish" by his neighbors and business colleagues. His life becomes a nightmare as he first tries to disassociate himself from Jews and gradually begins to identify with them.
Newman himself is a bigot, although he's very gentlemanly about it. He just does not question the origin, fairness, or rationale behind the warped thinking that underlies his own assumptions. He is sleepwalking through life, trying to avoid any surprises or danger, when he is thrust into a disorderly, ugly world that was there all along, but which he had steadfastly refused to see. Newman's life is utterly banal, with a vague dreamlike quality that gradually becomes a nightmare.
With a masterful combination of description and dialogue, the author takes the reader on a grimly fascinating and disturbing journey through the side of human nature that lurks just under the surface of civilization.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding and Outstanding 25 July 2006
By Charles Pooter - Published on
Focus is an incredible story, written in a bizarre window in time. Before the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe were known, Miller writes of anti-Semitism and prejudice in America. The story could have just as easily taken place in 1930's Germany. The thesis of this book is how much inhumanity will you passively allow, until you become a victim of it? Some condemn Newman's catharsis as being too slow or weak, but history has shown us time and time again how unprotestingly we put up with cruelty and barbarism. In the end, I find Newman is a person to be proud of: he turns his back on the "easy way out" his wife offers. He fully realises the injustice in the society, and he is ready to confront it. Focus shows us a world many didn't know existed, and offers hope in its courage.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this novel packs a wallop that belies its size 21 May 2010
By R. A. Frauenglas - Published on
Focus, by Arthur Miller (228 pgs., 1945, 1984). Miller is one of this country's most famous playwrights. I never knew he wrote & published prose, until I recently read a newly published collection of some of his short stories. Focus is not only his first published novel, but it's also his first full-length published work of any kind, except for some previously published essays in 1944. This novel was published in 1945, when Miller was merely 30 years old. His first published play, All My Sons, appeared in 1947.
Apparently, Miller never published anything but excellent, mature, hefty writing. This book is a wonderful read. The writing is emotive & muscular. There are smacks of Hemingway, but I think many young American writers of that era was influenced by Papa.
Miller wrote a contemporary novel. It takes place mostly in Queens, NY in 1945, before the end of WWII. Miller deals with an anti-Semitism that I didn't know was so prevalent in NYC in those years. My parents never told me stories about that. Maybe, where they lived in Brooklyn, NY they were more sheltered from the anti-Semitism Miller writes about in this novel. I do remember them telling me about resorts in CT which were closed to Jews, even well into the 1950's. Miller has a brief episode in this novel where his characters come face-to-face with that bigotry in CT.
Laurence Newman is the main character in this novel. He is descended from an old, English family that has been well established in the States for hundreds of years. He has moved up the corporate ladder at his place of work. He is quiet & keeps to himself. Newman lives in a home he owns on a quiet street in Queens. His mother lives with him. His neighbors are all in his economic strata. They are working class or lower middle management types who have fled to this part of Queens to escape from the "lower" elements. Newman is a bigoted escapee, like all the rest. None of his bosses & none of his neighbors think he is Jewish.
There is one Jewish family on the block. On the corner there is a candy store/newsstand. Mr. Finkelstein owns the shop & lives above it with his wife & young daughter. Newman passes by everyday & buys his daily newspaper there for his mother to read. He muses little on Finkelstein as an individual human being. Finkelstein has never cheated him, is not unclean, has never shown a knack for getting rich & is always polite & friendly. But Newman still thinks all Jews are dirty, clannish, rude, unclean & cheaters in business.
Newman finds out that his closest friends on the block belong to the Christian Front. Their most pressing local need is to rid the street of Finkelstein. Newman gives his assent to this proposal.
Soon after, he finds his eyesight failing & he gets a pair of glasses. Newman "looks Jewish," when he wears his glasses, because of some ironic quirk of nature. His immediate superior, who has known him for five years, transfers him to a place in the business where the public won't see him. He says he knows that Newman isn't Jewish, but he can't take the risks of him representing the company to the public. He gets married to a woman who he mistakenly thought was Jewish, but isn't. Everyone now assumes he married a Jewish girl. His friends on the street begin to think of him as Jewish.
The rest of the novel deals with Newman's change of sensibilities. His genteel anti-Semitism gives way to confusion & then to anger & finally to a sense of shared fate with the Finkelsteins of the world. His wife tries ever harder to fit into the Christian world & gets cozy with the Christian Front.
This novel is a very interesting analysis of a certain time & place in NYC & how people in similar situations can react differently to bigotry & stress & violence. This slender novel packs a wallop that belies its size.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Arthur Miller -FOCUS- 25 Mar. 2003
By Jim Gordon - Published on
Arthur Miller's Focus is never dull it has suspense, humor, and violence. His story of Lawrence, the main charactor afraid of the world, gives the reader an insight into the nature of prejudice. He writes about the beliefs middle-class white Americans have about Jews in 1945. His poignant way of explaining Lawrence to the reader gives us a forum to better understand our own feelings. This book is a definite read for anyone that wants to become more socially aware.
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