Friday, July 25, 2008

Rebecca Miller says playwright Arthur Miller unfairly demonized for treatment of son with Down syndrome

The Times in the UK has a column that includes part of a Q&A with filmmaker and writer Rebecca Miller, who was at the Royal Festival Hall talking about her first novel, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. She talks with anger about the attacks on her father's silence about her brother Daniel, who has Down syndrome. And she explains that she and her family (her husband is Academy-Award-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis with whom she has two sons) have a close relationship with her brother.

You certainly do not find Daniel in Arthur Miller's 1987 memoir, Timebends. Indeed, his very existence - he still lives with the elderly couple who have looked after him for years - would not be publicly known were it not for a censorious Vanity Fair feature last year about Miller and “the Down's syndrome child he deleted from his life”. It alleged Miller had barely visited his son as he grew up. The conscience of American letters lay flayed and exposed.

“I just think,” says Daniel's sister, “that it was undertaken in the spirit of irresponsibility and actually, finally, a kind of malevolent spirit - as you say, to take someone down without looking at it with any subtlety or having really spoken to the people that they needed to speak to to really get a sense of what it all meant. So I find it very disappointing.”

Does she see her brother? “I see Danny all the time. He comes to us in Ireland. He's very much part of our lives, part of my children's lives.”