The Michigan Daily
Wednesday, January 6, 1988
'Timebends': Miller reflects on a lifetime
Timebends: A Life
By Arthur Miller
In Arthur Miller's autobiography, Timebends: A Life, Miller
writes, "Memory keeps folding in upon itself like geologic layers of
rock, the deeper strata sometimes appearing on top before they slope
downward into the depths again." This defines both the title and
organization of this autobiography. Miller's life story bends and folds
through time, with no chronological synchronization, one event of his
life reminding him of another from years past.
All these events merely add to the real depth of the work - Miller's
rendering of the social history and psychology of the society of his
lifetime. For example, he reminisces about returning to Ann Arbor in
the '60s to participate in a teach-in about Vietnam and remembers his
own days at the University when he protested, to no avail, the Spanish
These remembrances, at times, seem to sadden Miller. Near the end
,of the novel, Miller meets with Mikhail Gorbachev as part of the
2 lasnost attempt to bring Western writers to the Soviet Union:
"I had traveled a long and twisting road to this moment at the very
apex of Soviet power, and the changes in direction had left me not so
much disillusioned as smiling, painfully sometimes. For the political
world, I have come to believe, is fundamentally beyond anyone's
control, yet we all go on as though it were a kind of vehicle that only
needs a change of drivers in order to steer it away from its frequent hair-
raising visits to the edge of the cliff. The immediate circumstances
behind the meeting with Gorbachev were especially curious yet
somehow logical in terms of my life."
It is this analytical approach to life that led Miller to become a
playwright. He remembers, "From the beginning, the idea of writing a
play was entwined with my very conception of myself. Playwriting was
an act of self-discovery from the start and would always be; it was a
kind of license to say the unspeakable, and I would never write anything
good that did not somehow make me blush."
Miller admits that Death of a Salesman is his most
autobiographical, self-analytical work. Miller cites a line from that
play: "'I still feel - kind of temporary about myself,' Willy Loman
says to his brother Ben. I smiled as I wrote the line in the spring.of
1948, when it had not yet occurred to me that it summed up my own
condition then and throughout my life. The here and now was always
Alumnus Arthur Miller's autobiography, 'Tinebends: A Life,' is a
tremendous study of a man's life and the society of his time.
melting before the head of a dream coming toward me or its tail going
away. I would be 20 before I learned how to be 15, 30 before I knew
what it meant to be 20, and now, at 72 I have to stop myself from
thinking like a man of 50 who has plenty of time ahead."
Miller's insistence on self-discovery lasts throughout both his life
and the book, even to the last pages where he talks of his grandchildren.
"I have heard the word 'Grandpa!' There was no denying the resistance
to that word - my God, I had hardly begun! What are these small
persons doing on my lap lovingly repeating that terrible accusation
with all its finality? How confidently they imagine I am Grandpa. And
this makes me wonder who I imagine I am."
The major criticism of Timebends is its inaccessibility. This a
lengthy, dense book, requiring much concentration and knowledge of
the history and social movements of the 20th century, not just in
America, but throughout the world.
He also gives little credit to the public's intelligence. At one point,
he remarks of his relationship with Marilyn Monroe, "We had come
together at a time when America was in yet another of her reactionary
phases and social consciousness was a dying memory, and that was an
important element in her disillusionment with the country and herself
and all she dealt with. The public knew little or nothing about what
forces were manipulating their lives, and movies and plays and books
were doing nothing to educate them." This flaw seems ironic as Miller
prides himself on being an accessible playwright for the masses.
Despite this attitude and Miller's somewhat difficult style,
Timebends is a tremendous study of a man's life and the society of his
time, and it is well worth your effort to pick it up.
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They Might Be Giants
Don't Let's Stop
A band like this I have never
experienced. But who has. I just
gobble these guys up. Who would
ever expect an "underground" band to
be using an accordian? Not me.
-the Giants' new EP is divided
to a serious side and funny side.
Ilie first side (serious) contains
.won't Let's Start," a dancey-type,
beat love song. But even in this
ng they can't seem to shy away
,,m the silly lyrics, so I guess it
ould just be called "more serious."
ake up and smell the cat food in
lour bank account/But don't try to
op the tail that wags the hound."
Side two starts off on the Giants'
ld s9 omping ground by ripping on
the Replacements in a polka song,.
"Hi, we're the Replacements/And
we're in a rock 'n' roll band/.. .Then
we'll have a party." They continue
on to a polka/waltz love song and a
last polka called "The Famous
Polka" which I still haven't figured
out. "The famous person wears the
same size water skis as me." What's
this all mean?
This makes for a very good
record, but luckily it is only an EP.
With the Giants' whole accor-
dian/polka thing, a four song record
suits them just right.
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