“I Couldn’t Dig It”: An Interview with Arthur Miller



At 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, The Paris Review has copresented an occasional series of live conversations with writers—many of which have formed the foundations of interviews in the quarterly. Recently, 92Y and The Paris Review have made recordings of these interviews available at 92Y’s Poetry Center Online and here at The Paris Review. Consider them deleted scenes from our Writers at Work interviews, or directors’ cuts, or surprisingly lifelike radio adaptations.

This week we’re debuting four new recordings from the series. Today, listen to Arthur Miller, who talked with Christopher Bigsby on January 4, 1999. Their conversation laid the groundwork for Miller’s Art of Theater interview in the magazine later that year. Here, he dilates on meeting Mel Brooks (“He said, What’s [the play] about? And I said, Well, there are these two brothers… and he said, Stop, I’m crying!”), watching productions of his work, and the influence of politics in his plays:

I really can’t follow politics too long because it’s very boring. However, I have to recognize, like any person does—I believe the country’s run by business. There are two levels of power. One is business power, the other is political power. And the political power occasionally means a lot, but the business power always means a lot … The basic interest for me is what that does to people. I’ve never really written about issues as such—not that I don’t care about them, but I’ve written about the effect on people of the climate that they’re living in, the social and political climate. It’s true of any play of mine, and I’m very conscious of that, and always have been.

On April 20, 92Y will host the next installment of Paris Review Live: the poet Nathaniel Mackey will read from his work and sit for a conversation with Cathy Park Hong.

Yesterday we featured an interview with John le Carré. If you’d like to listen to more of these collaborations, check out our previous installments: the Southerners (Gail Godwin, Reynolds Price, Tony Kushner, and Horton Footethe poets (Maya Angelou, Denise Levertov, and Gary Snyder) and the travel writers (Paul Theroux, Jan Morris, and Peter Matthiessen).

We are able to share these recordings thanks to a generous gift in memory of Christopher Lightfoot Walker, longtime friend of the Poetry Center and The Paris Review.

Dan Piepenbring is the web editor of The Paris Review.