Presence: Stories

Arthur Miller, Author . Viking $23.95 (164p) ISBN 978-0-670-03828-2

Alongside his achievements in 20th-century drama, Miller (1915–2005) published four previous works of fiction. This collection brings together six pieces that appeared in magazines at the end of Miller's life; all, in their ways, celebrate redemption through love. The blocked, aging writer of "The Bare Manuscript" hires a flesh-and-muscle six-foot-tall model, hoping to tap into the sexual vigor of his early genius by inscribing new work directly onto her body; what unspools are the sad story of his marriage and tender memories of courtship. In "Beavers," a country homeowner is mesmerized by the astounding energy of the beavers that appear one day in his pond, and whose redundant work seems to parallel the futility of human effort, yet also to bravely mimic human emotion. "The Performance" finds the Jewish head of an American tap-dancing troupe, in Berlin just before WWII, invited to perform in front of Hitler himself. A 13-year-old boy's life is transformed by getting a new puppy, or rather, by his sexual initiation with the woman who gives him the dog in the opening "Bulldog," while in the closing title story, an older man discovers a couple making love on the beach, triggering a flood of recollection. Miller's late work showcases inimitable writing and precipitous depths of longing. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/26/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
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