Arthur Miller is a brilliant playwright who helped changed the landscape of American theatre. Therefore, he does know a lot about acting. At the same time, I know from personal experience that Miller likes to talk and his political leanings aren't very secretive. ON POLITICS AND THE ART OF ACTING, Miller attempts to illustrate how acting goes hand and hand with politics and how the media has helped transform presidential elections so that no longer is it the best person that wins, but the person who is the better actor. The book has two distinct main points. The first being to discredit President George W. Bush. Miller's bias and sublime hatred toward the President are obvious. He tries to sugar coat his intellectual attack by making the case that there other Presidents that he admired (FDR) were better actors (stars), but the tone of the work and the subtle stabs it gives makes it clear that Miller really doesn't like the President and that all he wants to do is discredit him in any way he can. The second point of the book is the point the book ends on: that no matter what our failures as a people, culture, society, and a civilization, our Art will stand the test of time and it is our Art that people will remember and that we will be rememberd by. Art will save us. It's an interesting point to think about, though largely misguided, but when one realizes that the person making it is an Artist himself with an ego that needs boosting, it seems much more farcical than the supposed "failure" of the system in the 2000 Presidential election. Despite these faults, the book is interesting to read and gives a glimpse of the inner thought process of one of America's most beloved playwrights.
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In this very brief book, drawn from an expanded lecture, Miller, arguably America's greatest living playwright, expounds on the similarities between politics and acting. Never dull and often controversial, Miller contends that "the closer one approaches any kind of power the more acting is required." But it was not always so, as Miller notes when he compares the Lincoln-Douglas debates with the presidential debates of 2000. While all the candidates "acted," what's different today is the transmission of the event via the mass-media cameras. The camera's "reality" is different from the reality perceived by the human eye. However, what Miller does not express is an appreciation of how elections and, for that matter, governing itself have evolved with the introduction of mass media. Yes, candidates and politicians "act," feigning sincerity, but this is an adaptation necessary for survival. In his review of the modern presidents, Miller most admired FDR because he didn't see him as acting, while Reagan was the best actor because he lived the Stanislavsky method. Clinton is rated the second-best actor. Ultimately, Miller appears to lament the loss of honest and genuine politicians and the ascendance of politicians who are bad actors. He's rather idealistic when he assesses the political world, but he certainly understands human nature. Recommended for all libraries and audiences. Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.