Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Review: Blonde

Blonde, by Joyce Carol Oates (Harper Collins, 2000), was one of the thickest books I've tackled in a long time.  Topping out at 738 pages, I found myself reading in the mornings while I waited for the washer to spin out, in the afternoons while supper was simmering, and in the evenings while Hank watched American Ninja Warrior.  It was one of those novels that pulls you in, regardless of the fact that you already know the ending, and holds you until the last chapter.  I've read several other biographies on Marilyn Monroe and knew early on that this version would erase all the glitz and expose the gritty side of Marilyn's glamorous life.

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
Oates' writing style is casual and flowing.  Several of the chapters are nothing but dialogue between Marilyn and Arthur Miller (her third husband).  Some sections included only Marilyn's stream of consciousness.  And throughout the entire narrative, her thoughts were interjected to give readers an understanding of her perception of the events taking place around her.  This writing style provided a well-rounded view of the whole picture while maintaining an intimate connection with Marilyn and a window into her emotional state.

Oates' did not intend the book to be biographical.  Some names were changed, and some key characters were left out altogether, most notably Lee and Paula Strasberg.  However, I believe the emotional undercurrent was true to Marilyn's life.  It is widely held that off-camera, she had no self-esteem.  She desperately needed to be loved, desperately wanted a baby, and was easily swayed by the ambitions of those around her.  On-camera she was dynamite.  Cast and crew, spell-bound, stopped and watched.  No matter their years of experience (as with Laurence Olivier or Clark Gable); no matter their purported indifference to her beauty; or their pure exasperation (aka, hatred) of unprofessionalism on set.  It was reported by all that her ability could only be classified as genius. 

This book explores her desire to balance her normal life as Norma Jean with her powerful Hollywood career as Marilyn Monroe.  Despite her scarred upbringing by a psychotic mother, followed by years in the foster system, the reader hopes against hope that this young starlet will triumph.  But as Norma Jean falls deeper into the grips of drugs and loses herself in the champagne, the reader weeps for the lost innocence and steels themselves for the next movie premiere at which Marilyn Monroe is put on display.  It is a powerful narrative and a must-read for anyone looking to round out their knowledge of her life.


  1. Next stop amazon , I'm getting it , she is one of my favs. Thanks , dar

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I've been looking to add new titles to my Summer reading list. This one sounds great!


Thanks for your thoughts! Come back to visit again soon!