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Timebends: A Life Hardcover – Nov 1989


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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.

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The view from the floor is of a pair of pointy black calf-height shoes, one of them twitching restlessly, and just above them the plum-colored skirt rising from the ankles to the blouse, and higher still the young round face and her ever-changing tones of voice as she gossips into the wall telephone with one of her two sisters, something she would go on doing the rest of her life until one by one they peeled off the wire and vanished into the sky. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 19 reviews
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Arthur Miller's Tragic Denial 18 Aug 2007
By Elizabeth J. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This was going to be a 5-star review. But I have learned this week while reading "Timebends" for the first time -- twenty years after its first publication -- that Arthur Miller and his third wife, Inge Morath, had a son, Daniel, who was born with Down syndrome in 1966. Daniel's name does not appear in the text or index of "Timebends." According to an article in the September 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, Miller had Daniel banished to a state institution almost immediately after birth, and that he thereafter completely excised Daniel from his life. It's heartbreaking. According to Vanity Fair, Daniel, who is now 41, is relatively high-functioning and a very happy, content and spirited person. But when Daniel's mother, Inge, (who was well-known in her own right as a photographer) died in 2002 and the New York Times called Miller for information about his family, he again omitted the name of his youngest son. Inge visited Daniel regularly until her death, and celebrated holidays with him. I wonder how much friction her refusal to simply throw him away caused in the Miller household? Not enough to divide the couple, it seems. They were married 40 years.

In my view, to have denied his son's existence is an unforgivable blind spot for an artist so widely revered and admired for his empathy and his brave stances as a moral force for justice and compassion. As the VF article points out, shame, selfishness and fear could all have been motivators for Arthur Miller's decision. Still, after reading more than 500 pages of musings and meditations by a truly masterful writer -- a man all too aware of his own humanity; both of his talents and his limitations, I feel betrayed.

Much of "Timebends" just drips with elegant prose; Miller spins elegiac meditations on life during the Depression, his first exposure to unfair labor practices on New York city docks and the difficulties he always had writing (the gestation period for his plays was sometimes years). He humbly describes his refusal to "name names" during the 1950s Red Scare, and tells of the pain he felt at having to sever his friendship with director Elia Kazan for many years for having given the House Un-American Activities Committee everything it wanted.

If his first marriage and children never seem to elbow their way to the forefront of Miller's monologue, it's because he devotes so much time to describing the American theater in one of its Golden Ages -- the late 1940s and early 1950s. Miller seems to have known everyone -- not only in the theater but in all realms of arts and letters and politics, but he never sounds like he's name-dropping. And he wisely uses restraint in describing his works in full and in quoting shamelessly from their reviews. Miller also bites his tongue while discussing the failed and rancorous attempts to bring about a National Theater in the 1960s.

And then we come to the chapters everyone was dying to read when the book first came out -- the chapters on Marilyn Monroe. Miller had never spoken publicly about her before "Timebends" was first published in 1987. I don't doubt for an instant that he truly loved Marilyn, nor she him. Hers was obviously an extraordinarily appealing personality, and her beauty allowed him to forgive her neediness and desperation for respect and love for many years. Miller says she was never happier than when they went to visit his parents in New York. There Marilyn was treated like an ordinary daughter-in-law, and she loved it. Miller notes her native intelligence -- which was tremendous -- and her desperate sadness and endless quest for normalcy. He met her in 1951, before she became bigger than life, and he followed her trajectory almost all the way to the bottom. They were married for five years, from 1956-1961. In 1960, making the film "The Misfits," which Miller wrote expressly for Monroe, nearly killed them both. This is a fascinating portrait of Marilyn which was shrouded until Miller decided to unveil it. It's the eulogy he never got to deliver. It's beautiful, tender, and rueful, speaking as it does of untold grief on both their parts. It seems as though Miller regretted to the end of his days his inability to save Marilyn, although there were many others who found they were not up to the task, either.

Tragically, after the heroic efforts to save Marilyn from herself, Miller's well ran dry, and there seems to have been no more compassion or sensitivity to show to his own son. Miller married Inge Morath in 1962, a few months before Marilyn died. Morath was a photographer from Magnum Photos sent out to capture pictures on the set of "The Misfits." Miller and Morath remained married until her death in 2002, fifteen years after "Timebends" ends. And frankly, I got no further than their marriage and birth of daughter Rebecca once I learned of the missing son of Arthur Miller. As Miller did to Daniel, so I, too, turned away from the rest of what had been the story of a deeply compelling and moving life.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
a useable past 11 Sep 2001
By William Kowinski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In an interview conducted before he wrote this book, Miller said, "I think memoirs, autobiography...can help to translate chaos into something that is a useable past. Give an image where there was only a blur." He suggests the kind of autobiography he would be interested in writing would be more about the time he was living rather than his life, so a reader would "come away from it somehow a little heavier than he went into it." In all of this, TIMEBENDS succeeds wonderfully. I learned a great deal more about the textures, realities and signficance of the 1930s, 40s and 50s through his observations and images than through any linear professional histories. A bonus for those who enjoy seeing and reading Miller's plays is his deliberate selection of significant events and people in his life that show up in the plays in one way or another. And he does have great stories and observations about famous people--Olivier, Clark Gable, etc.-- that are the more conventional pleasures of show biz autobios. Even if he wasn't among the most important American dramatists of our time--perhaps the most important--this book would be a significant literary accomplishment. Miller is a careful writer, so readers perhaps unused to tact and understatement in memoirs are advised to look beyond their expectations to what he actually says. Yet his chapters on Marilyn Monroe were vivid and gave me more of an impression of her as a person than anything else I've read. Miller's voice brings all of this varied material together, and so the reader might approach this book as if listening to a great storyteller. This is a book full of heart, humor, wisdom and perspectives not found elsewhere. It is a treasure and a gift.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
This will bend your mind if you've got the time! 21 Dec 2000
By Thomas H. Lynch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This autobiography, written by Miller at age 72, strikes the reader immediately with his wonderful writing style. He does not march year by year through his life but bobs and weaves subtly bending time with his abundant dramatic talent. It is a pleasure to read. But so much in his life! It does go on and on. It is a book for leisure, not speed, reading. He brings to live the Depression Age, insight into our real life in World War II, the ugliness of the House un-American Activities Committee and McCarthyism (he was convicted of contempt for Congress for refusal to name names though the conviction was later overturned upon appeal), and of course he writes on his successes of his plays All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, the Crucible and of many others as well as his failures. All this with Marilyn Monroe yet to come! He seems continually embroiled in injustice and wrenching emotional turmoil. With his third wife, in his 40s, he gets his emotional life together but still pursues freedom for writers as a president of PEN. Miller, now 85, still writes and has recently published 60 years of collected essays entitled as Echoes Down the Corridor. Some of the material covers the events covered in TimeBends, but TimeBends is much more interesting.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A long haul very illuminating at times 13 Oct 2004
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a very detailed autobiography. I think the very best parts of it relate to the period of Miller's life when he was a young and eager playwright. The whole story of the first stagings of ' Death of a Salesman'is a truly fascinating one. One of the major problems of the work for me however was that Miller could supply tremendous detail and also insight about people without really probing inwardly very deeply . I also believe he held back a lot of punches, a lot of bitter truth in writing about people closest to him.

A great playwright it turns out may be a very good, but not a great autobiographer.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Hobo Philosopher 21 Sep 2009
By Richard E. Noble - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most beautifully written books that I have ever read. I recommend it to everybody who is interested in writing. After finishing the book I was struck by the foolish thought that this man could certainly have been a great novelist or poet - but then what is wrong with becoming a great American playwright. But it did seem to me strange that a man who could write in this manner would make his living writing dialogue. It is amazing. This book is, of course, a memoir. Mr. Miller lived a full life. He was an intellectual. His life with Marilyn is expressed honestly and provides a very good insight into who and what she was. There is no doubt that he was in love with the woman. This book is a good book on all levels but I would repeat my initial recommendation. If you are a writer and aspire to learn the craft, this book is a manual on how to write beautifully and intelligently. To me, his life and Marilyn are only the excuse for this endeavor - it is a work of art.

Richard Edward Noble - The Hobo Philosopher - Author of:

"Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" Novel - Lawrence, Ma.
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