To the end of his life, Arthur Miller was working on new material, and thinking about the past.
His last completed work of fiction, the short story “Beavers,” appears in the current issue of Harper’s and tells of a man who contemplates killing a beaver on his property and comes to reflect on his own life. “He had not believed in his death,” Miller wrote. “He was young and immortal to himself.”
Miller was also working on an anthology with the Library of America, compiling his diaries for a planned book and collaborating with producer David Reichenthal for a London revival of “Death of a Salesman,” which will go on in May.
Another short story by Miller, who died Thursday night at age 89, will appear in the next issue of the Southwest Review, a literary magazine based at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “The Turpentine Still” is a 16,000-word story, set mostly in Haiti, about a Miller-esque character who encounters a dying expatriate and comes to think of his own legacy and “what you leave behind,” according to Southwest Review managing editor Jennifer Cranfill.
Cranfill said Friday that Miller was very involved in the editing process and remarkably “willing to work with us and make changes.” Only when writing about himself did a more insistent side emerge.
“At the back of our magazine, we always include short descriptions of each contributor and what they’ve written,” Cranfill said. “Arthur Miller gave us a list of everything he had done. It was about half a page, and he even added a couple of things he had forgotten about.
“We were going to edit it down, but we got word that he was very ill and that it was very important to him for everything to be there. It was as if he saw it as some kind of testament.”