I FIRST met Arthur Miller nearly 30 years ago, tracking from New York into a Connecticut where the woods were aflame. It was what is known as the leaf season when the maple trees turn to liquid colour. There were no hotel rooms to be had and I spent a night on a fold- down bed in the middle of a conference centre. It was the last time I had to do that. In all the years that followed I was welcomed into his home.
He was a carpenter and took as much pleasure in fashioning furniture from the wood as he did from creating plays from his words. He made the table from which he ate, consulting a professor of mathematics to get the angles right. What he wanted to create was a table at which 12 people could engage in the same conversation. Maybe that was how he saw the stage.
When an apple tree in which his daughter used to play blew down in a gale, as it did in his play All My Sons, he fashioned the wood into salad servers. He also loved machines. He would drive around in a Land Rover bought in England more than 40 years ago, mending it when he broke.
When he left university in 1938, he took with him a play that he hoped would be accepted by Broadway. The producers found it "too Jewish," even though they were Jewish themselves. Anti-Semitism in New York was, he explained, "fierce".
When he travelled south on behalf of the Library of Congress, to collect regional accents, he was threatened by a man with a shotgun who assumed that anyone connected with federal government must be Jewish. No wonder that, after the failure of his first play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, he should write a novel against anti- Semitism.
He was an American author who wrote against the American grain. So, beginning in wartime, he wrote a play about a manufacturer who sent defective parts to the Army Air Force. It was banned by …