In Two Minds: A biography of Jonathan Miller
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In Two Minds is the first comprehensive biography of Jonathan Miller – the story of one of post‐war Britain’s most intriguing polymaths. Descended from immigrants who fled Tsarist anti‐Semitism to become shopkeepers in Ireland and London’s East End, Miller was born into an intellectual milieu, between Bloomsbury and Harley Street – the son of a novelist and a leading child psychiatrist. Miller trained as adoctor but then forged a career as a stellar comedian and as a world‐renowned theatre and opera director.
He is a controversial humorist, public intellectual and TV personality. As a star in the groundbreaking satirical revue Beyond the Fringe, he shot to fame alongside Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. His expertise and interests encompass many areas, from medicine (he wrote and presented the hugely acclaimed BBC documentary series The Body in Question) to the history of art, Mozart, atheism and the nature of laughter.
Jonathan Miller is one of the most multi‐talented Britons of his generation, celebrated for his dazzling intelligence and anti‐establishmentarian wit. Drawing on in-depth interviews, this is an entertaining and illuminating portrait of a fascinatingly complex man.
Shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize, the Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography and the HW Fisher Prize for Best First Biography.
'A remarkable portrait of a complex and Coleridgean figure, a man in two minds about himself for most of his life' The Telegraph
'Scrupulously researched, always fascinating… As Bassett says in her admirably measured book, there’s ‘bile and bitterness’ here. As she demonstrates, there’s also genius' The Times
'Compelling.. a dense, exhaustively well-researched portrait... a persuasive, ultimately rather sad portrait of a North London Jewish boy' Sunday Times
'Bassett is herself a fine, fierce theatre critic – her write-ups of Miller's productions have verve and perceptive grace… thorough… entertaining' Guardian
‘An admirably thorough job of a biography: sympathetic, deeply researched, informed by long conversations with Miller and dozens of friends, colleagues and, occasionally, enemies.’ The Spectator
‘Kate Bassett’s fascinating book draws together the many strands that combine to make this renaissance man.’ Jewish Chronicle
‘Sir Jonathan Miller is a remarkable man. As one of the great egocentrics of his generation, he would not question this judgment... Ms Bassett’s first-class biography does not mask Sir Jonathan’s weaknesses, but she says that, “in conversation, his flaws seem more tragicomic than intolerable—the bile and bitterness never quite obliterate the man’s warmth.”’ The Economist
‘Absorbing, in-depth and erudite… Bassett, who clearly likes and respects her subject but isn't overawed by him, sensibly marshals the arguments on both sides and leaves it up to the reader how posterity will regard Miller.’ Observer
‘Miller’s bravura is exemplary and life-enhancing, so it is sad to learn from Kate Bassett’s magnificent biography (brilliantly researched – even the extensive endnotes are a joy) that the man himself somehow feels hard-done-by, unappreciated and under-rewarded.' Financial Times
‘Bassett’s beautifully balanced account… describes how caring [Miller] can be to friends, and how he can enthuse them with his dazzling cross-disciplinary ideas. His secret of survival? For every bridge he burns, he’s somehow able to build another. He’s inexhaustible, and unceasingly curious. Bassett treats her subject with respect, and, thankfully, without kid gloves… fascinating’ Bloomberg
‘There is no more extraordinary figure in British public life than Jonathan Miller… His achievement is undeniable, as In Two Minds makes clear, and though his workaholic days are behind him, he reveals no signs of retirement.’ Wall Street Journal