‘John Lahr treats his subject with clarity and charity. His cogent analyses are revelatory but not surgical, and his sympathy never cloys. He does what a good literary biographer must do: He does not reduce the work to the life, but shows how it explains the life from which it emerges. He is an investigative reporter, a profiler of personality, mind and character, and a critic who understands drama on the page and in the house.’
– Wall Street Journal

‘New Yorker critic John Lahr shines in this searching account of the playwright Arthur Miller….It’s a great introduction to a giant of American letters.’
Publisher’s Weekly

‘In this succinct and gorgeously written portrait, the former New Yorker critic and award-winning biographer of Tennessee Williams offers a keen psychological appraisal of Miller’s work, and Miller himself.’
– Boston Globe

Below:  John Lahr and Nicholas Hytner discuss American Witness on Jewish Book Week videos.

Transcript of the discussion here.

‘No one writes about playwrights and the theater the way John Lahr does. In this probing, brilliantly insightful, and also deeply readable and entertaining book, he offers unique insight into how Miller’s mind works, and how the details of his biography impacted his body of work.’
– Sarah Ruhl, MacArthur Prizewinning playwright

‘In “Arthur Miller”, the great critic and biographer John Lahr has found a perfect subject: complex, gifted, a man of his times. This is biography-as-collaboration, and utterly captivating.’
– Hilton Als, Pulitzer Prize–winning essayist and author

‘Lahr lets us see the great American playwright with new eyes.  No one writes more perceptively about the twentieth century theater than John Lahr.  After his highly acclaimed Tennessee Williams biography, Lahr scores a second smash hit with “Arthur Miller”.’
– John Guare, author of Six Degrees of Separation; The House of Blue Leaves.

‘A superbly written, impeccably researched biography from the great John Lahr. The close relationship between  Miller and his plays is detailed and sympathetic. A classic book about a classic American playwright.’
– André Bishop, Artistic Director, Lincoln Center Theater

John Lahr’s latest book Arthur Miller – American Witness was published by Yale University Press in November 2022

Book talk with John  Lahr on American Witness.

John Lahr’s Diary of a Somebody plays at the Seven Dials Theatre in London, 22 March – 30 April 2022.

The year is 1966. A shabby bedsit in Angel. Joe Orton, who lives with his lover Kenneth Halliwell, is becoming the most successful young playwright in Britain. His West End hit Loot is voted Play of the Year. His work is adapted for TV. The Beatles demand that he write their new movie.

‘A class act all the way…Sometimes uproariously funny, and ultimately unsettling…A most welcome revival.’
– The Times

‘Stunning drama from Joe Orton’s Journal..Halliwell insisted in his suicide note that his partner’s diaries would explain all. They didn’t. This production, however, comes closer.’
– The Guardian

More details and buy tickets here.

John Lahr’s Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, follows Lahr’s other ground-breaking theatre biographies to give intimate access to the mind of one of the greatest American playwrights of the twentieth century. Williams’s work ushered in – as Arthur Miller declared – ‘a revolution’ in American theatre. Williams put his best self – and most of his life – into his plays: The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Rose Tattoo, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Sweet Bird of Youth, The Night of the Iguana among many. The plays, later made into films, defined their times and also gave defining roles to many of the century’s greatest players: Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in Street Car, Laurette Taylor as Amanda in The Glass Menagerie, Maureen Stapleton and Eli Wallach as Serafina and Alvaro in The Rose Tattoo, and Geraldine Page as the Princess in Sweet Bird of Youth. This brilliantly written, deeply researched biography sheds a light on Williams’s warring family, his lobotomized sister, his guilt, his plays, his turbulent homosexual life, his misreported death, even the shenanigans of his estate.

John Lahr was recently awarded The National Arts Club Medal of Honour for Achievement in the Theatrical Arts, the first critic ever to win the award which has been given in the past to such luminaries as Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Lin Manuel-Miranda.

Winner of the eighth annual Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography

Winner of the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award for best biography, winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award for recognition of “the quality of prose style”.

In the sensational saga of Williams’s rise and fall, Lahr captures not just the man’s tempestuous public existence but also his thrilling backstage life where the director Elia Kazan, his agent Audrey Wood, Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Bette Davis, Maureen Stapleton, Diana Barrymore, Tallulah Bankhead, Eli Wallach, and Laurette Taylor have scintillating walk-on parts. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh is a biography of the highest order: a book about the major American playwright of his time written by the major American drama critic of his time.

book-critics‘This witty, moving, ferociously intelligent study of the great, troubled
playwright’s personal and creative paths and how they intersected, is
essential reading for theater fans.’
USA Today

‘Nobody will be able to write another biography of Tennessee Williams after this, because it  puts the D in definitive.’
John Waters

‘The book is a triumph’
Nick Hytner

‘Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh is a biography of the playwright that is never likely to be equalled let alone surpassed.’
The Australian

‘This is a masterpiece about a genius. Only John Lahr, with his perceptions about the theater, about writers, about poetry and about people could have written this book. What a marvelous read, with brilliantly detailed research.’
Helen Mirren

book-awards‘John Lahr’s magnificent biography…gathers material from a vast array of sources, including Williams’s diaries, poems, letters and the recollections of countless friends and colleagues,to trace how the personal and the creative lives interweave throughout the whole span of Williams’s oeuvre. The result is at once sensitive and magisterial, and it fulfils the ultimate test for a literary biography by convincing you that the works cannot be understood without it. Once you have read it, it becomes part of their meaning.’
John Carey, lead review, Sunday London Times

poster‘This is by far the best book ever written about America’s greatest playwright. John Lahr, the longtime drama critic for the New Yorker, knows his way around Broadway better than anyone. He is a witty and elegant stylist, a scrupulous researcher, a passionate yet canny advocate… Hebrings us as close to Williams as we are ever likely to get.’
J.D. McClatchy,Wall Street Journal

‘Splendid beyond words. It would be hard to imagine a more satisfying biography.’
Bill Bryson

‘Could this be the best theater book I’ve ever read? It just might be. Tennessee Williams had two great pieces of luck. Elia Kazan to direct his work and now John Lahr to make thrilling sense of his life’
John Guare, author of Six Degrees of SeparationHouse of Blue LeavesAtlantic City

Read all the reviews here
Read more about the book here

W. W. Norton & Company (US -September 22, 2014)
Bloomsbury Publishing (UK -25 Sep 2014)

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John Lahr’s most recent book JOY RIDE will feature many of his very best New Yorker profiles and reviews. Published by Norton (US) and Bloomsbury (UK).

Joy Ride throws open the stage door and introduces readers to such makers of contemporary drama as Arthur Miller, Tony Kushner, Wallace Shawn, Harold Pinter, David Rabe, David Mamet, Mike Nichols, and August Wilson. Lahr takes us to the cabin in the woods that Arthur Miller built in order to write Death of a Salesman.

Read more…

‘Lahr creates a book worthy of its title: It is a living celebration of theater itself.’
Caryn James, New York Times

‘John Lahr writes ­ beautifully ­ about the theatre and those who make it with an unrivalled blend of enthusiasm, perception and analytical precision. This book is justly titled; ­ his joy is irresistible.’
Nicholas Hytner

‘100 years from now this is where people will look to see what it was like back then. Bravo!’
John Guare

‘We’re on the cusp of rehearsals for “Hamilton”, and reading your intimate profiles of these playwrights gives me immeasurable courage and heart.
I’m in your debt.’
Lin-Manuel Miranda

joy ride‘Former New Yorker drama critic John Lahr (“Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh) spotlights more brilliantly neurotic theater personalities in his latest incisive exhuberant collection from the magazine…Lahr’s reportage, trenchant insight, and infectious love of the stage will remind readers of how exciting modern theater can be.’
Publisher’s Weekly, June 22, 2015

‘Mr. Lahr patiently mines the essence of his subjects–playwrights, directors–with the affection of a fan, the insight of a confidante, and the authorial flair of an experienced critic. The effect is often delicious. Lahr’s work for the New Yorker offers something of lasting value. A delight
to read.’
The Economist

‘Joy Ride is a privilege to read. Lahr’s writing about theatre means something of grandeur receives its appropriate memorial.’ 
The Australian