Amidst all the overblown appreciations, Terry Teachout strikes a dissenting note in the Wall St Journal (subscriber-only):

I wonder how much attention would now be paid to Miller if he hadn't married Monroe, and if the House Un-American Activities Committee hadn't made the mistake of subpoenaing him in 1956 to testify about his Communist ties (which were extensive, though he always denied having been an actual party member), thereby bringing about his citation for contempt of Congress when he refused to "name names." The one made him a pop-culture footnote, the other a liberal icon.

The irony is that the smartest critics of Miller's own generation, virtually all of whom shared his left-wing views, held his plays in a different kind of contempt. Back then he took his roughest beatings from the likes of Eric Bentley, Mary McCarthy, Kenneth Tynan and Robert Warshow, who found him heavy-handed and insufferably preachy. Tynan, for instance, wrote that "The Crucible" "suggests a sensibility blunted by the insistence of an outraged conscience: it has the over-simplifications of poster art." Bull's-eye.

Times have changed, and today's more stringently politicized critics and playwrights seem willing to overlook Miller's limitations because he thought as they do. "As a political figure, he was a progressive man, but never doctrinaire," Tony Kushner said last week. "There was a simplicity, and humbleness, and decency in his work." Some of this is true--Miller was "progressive," and his plays were simple--but if there was anything humble about him, it escaped my attention. He was a man of limitless self-regard who confused the state of Broadway with his latter-day inability to get his new plays produced there...

|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/02/arthur-miller-amidst-all-overblown.html|||2/15/2005 01:00:00 pm|||||||||