Timebends: A Life is not the usual autobiographical account of when, where and with whom. It is a voyage of self-discovery across dark, interior seas aboard Arthur Miller’s own personal Argo. Indeed one gets the impression that it was never really intended for publication at all; that he wrote it behind locked doors, at night, in order to exorcise ghosts and demons which had been haunting his psyche for years. When the Sirens had finished singing sweetly to him and his catharsis was complete Miller would surely, but for horrified publishers, have chucked the manuscript into the bin.
This is not an autobiography which is overly concerned with detailing tactile impressions. These who are curious about what the famous like to eat, drink, read or listen to will be disappointed with Timebends where even Miller’s six children and grandchildren barely get a mention. But, as might have been predicted of the man who wrote Death of a Salesman (1949) and The Crucible (1953) it is a moving, honest and beautifully crafted book (besides being America’s most famous living playwright Miller is also extremely adept at DIY). Instead of chronology he follows themes and people before pausing, putting them gently to one side, and then, fifty pages later, picking them up again without a join or a drop of glue showing.
One cannot, therefore – as many will be tempted to do after hearing Miller speaking on the subject recently – simply turn to the chapters dealing with his marriage to Marilyn Monroe and hope to read on. Timebends is written in the way he wished he could have written all