Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend…unfortunately so is Benzedrine
Joyce Carol Oates’s fictional biography of Marilyn Monroe entitled “Blonde” was a bit of a trial for me to get through. I generally read about 100 pages per day but with this one I was more around about 50 pages per day. I’m not sure if it was the type set of the novel or the subject matter but my pace definitely slackened here. This Chunkster took a while to read.
I didn’t know much about Marilyn Monroe before this book. I’ve never seen any of her movies and my only exposure to her is through the remake avenue of things like Madonna’s video where she reenacts “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” or through Anna Nicole Smith’s entire life! I came away from this book with an overwhelming sense of pity for this poor woman. Perhaps that’s why I found the book difficult…her life is so depressing that it’s draining on the voyeur.
“Blonde” gives detailed snippets of her life. Basically her mother was nuts and before she was certifiable and committed, she was still nuts enough to screw up a little girl quite irrevocably. Her father was nowhere to be found and her entire life is spent searching for this man and trying to fill that masculine paternal void through a plethora of lovers. After her mother goes into the loony bin she is put in an orphanage and bounces around through the system of foster care. It seems like all she ever wanted was love and attention. She knew from a young age that she was different because men and women alike would stare at her beauty but she was nonetheless uncomfortable in her own skin.
She was made into Marilyn Monroe (because her agent liked the “mmmmm” sound the name made!) but she was always just Norma Jean Baker and terrified in the limelight. She abused alcohol and drugs in order to deal with her anxiety. She was Norma Jean playing the role of Marilyn and people never wanted her to be herself.
Some men truly loved her but for most she was a doll. Joe DiMaggio wanted her to be a stereotypical Italian housewife; he wanted her to be more like his mother than herself. It was a constant dominance struggle. She left him after he beat her up because of the infamous subway grate scene; he didn’t like his little wife to show the world her knickers!
Her infamous relationship with the President is put under such a negative light that it’s hard to look at him the same way after. He would drug her and pass her around to his friends for their own pleasure; he had her abducted in the middle of the night to perform an abortion; he treated her like meat and yet she was so desperate for a man to love her that she believed he respected and adored her.
Marilyn Monroe’s life was truly tragic. This novel shows the little girl who grew up but was always lost, always a perfectionist because through her acting she felt people would love her. She worked hard because she was terrified of being laughed at.
If you want to read a rawer version of her biography pick up this book but if you just want the glossy highlights where she is a glowing starlet then pick up a different biography because this one is not for you!