A sweeping, mesmerising novel of the most enduring and evocative cultural icon of the 20th century. 'Nobody has ever caught Marilyn more brilliantly than Oates' -- John Sutherland Who was Norma Jeane Baker? In Blonde we are given an intimate, unsparing vision of the woman who became Marilyn Monroe like no other: the child who visits the cinema ...
A sweeping, mesmerising novel of the most enduring and evocative cultural icon of the 20th century. 'Nobody has ever caught Marilyn more brilliantly than Oates' -- John Sutherland Who was Norma Jeane Baker? In Blonde we are given an intimate, unsparing vision of the woman who became Marilyn Monroe like no other: the child who visits the cinema with her mother; the orphan whose mother is declared mad; the woman who changes her name to become an actress; the fated celebrity, lover, comedienne, muse and icon. Joyce Carol Oates tells an epic American story of how a fragile, gifted young woman makes and remakes her identity, surviving against crushing odds, perpetually in conflict and intensely driven. Here is the very essence of the individual hungry and needy for love: from an elusive mother; from a mysterious, distant father and from a succession of lovers and husbands. In her most ambitious work to date Joyce Carol Oates sympathetically explores the inner life of the woman destined to become Hollywood's most compelling legend. Blonde is a brilliant and deeply moving portrait of a culture hypnotised by its own myths and the shattering reality of the personal effects it had on the woman who became Marilyn Monroe.
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With Joyce Carol Oates I started backwards: I started with We were the Mulvaneys and I tought it was great, I fell in love with her and from there I read a lot of her books and finally got to Blonde, her best book and a must read novel for Americans!!!! and of course anybody looking for a great novel!!
Jul 29, 2010
If BLONDE is not the definitive biography of Marilyn Monroe, it should be! Joyce Carol Oates has an understanding of people that is insightful, heartfelt and honest.
While I grew up seeing Marilyn Monroe in movies and TV reruns, not to mention the tabloids, there was a fragility to her that touched my heart. So, too, does Joyce Carol Oates. She presents such an honest look at Norma Jean Baker, a young woman who never had a chance. MM was as fictitoius to Monroe as Hollywood itself.
Without being maudlin, by the end of the book I was in tears, my heart broken for this incredibly talented, intelligent beautiful young woman who was knocked down at every turn. She should have been doing classic roles, not the dumb blond bombshell that sold tickets and fulfulled the men in her life's sadistic sexual fantasies.
By the end of the book I also wanted to take a bat to Joe DiMaggio and Peter Lawford for "allegedly" pimping her to the Kennedy's whom I had grown up loving and now make me sick at their abuse of people and power.
Oct 29, 2009
As many other reviewers have mentioned, "Blonde" is quite a weighty tome, clocking in at around 800 pages. However, at no point did I begrudge the book its length, because I was absolutely absorbed by it from cover to cover. "Blonde" is a devastating portrait of one of America's celebrity casualties. By the end of the book I actually felt like Marilyn Monroe had been created by Joyce Carol Oates, for the woman on the page was so believably and completely exposed in all her deep, fluttering insecurities, needs, and desires. I kept forgetting that Monroe was a historical figure whose life Oates spun into a fictional story, never having met the woman herself.
I highly recommend "Blonde" to those interested in the culture of 1950's Hollywood, in gender relations, and Marilyn herself. It may be a fictional biography, but it taps into the life she led and its tragic end to say something quite meaningful all the same.
Jun 14, 2007
An engrossing read
I was absorbed by this story from beginning to end. It combined the best of factual information and conjecture - a fascinating picture of Hollywood in the 50's and 60's and a gripping human story full of pathos and humour and drama - even though you know what the outcome will be, you wil not be able to put it down as the fateful end draws near.
Publishers Weekly, 2000-02-14 Dramatic, provocative and unsettlingly suggestive, Blonde is as much a bombshell as its protagonist, the legendary Marilyn Monroe. Writing in highly charged, impressionistic prose, Oates creates a striking and poignant portrait of the mythic star and the society that made and failed her. In a five-part narrative corresponding to the stages of Monroe's life, Oates renders the squalid circumstances of Norma Jeane's upbringing: the damage inflicted by a psychotic mother and the absence of an unknown (and perpetually yearned for) father, and the desolation of four years in an orphanage and betrayal in a foster home. She reviews the young Monroe's rocky road to stardom, involving sexual favors to studio chiefs who thought her sluttish, untalented and stupid, while they reaped millions from her movies; she conveys the essence of Monroe's three marriages and credibly establishes Monroe's insatiable need for security and love. To a remarkable extent, she captures Monroe's breathy voice and vulnerable stutter, and the almost schizoid personality that produced her mercurial behavior. (Emotionally volatile, fey, self-absorbed, and frightened, Monroe could also be tough, outspoken, vulgar--her notorious perfectionism a shield against the ridicule and failure that Oates claims she continually feared.) As Oates demonstrated early in her career in Them, and in many books since, she has an impressive ability to empathize with people in the underclass, and her nuanced portrait of "MM" carries psychological truth. Oates sees Monroe as doomed from the beginning by heredity and fate, and hurried to her death by a combination of cynical Hollywood exploitation, dependence on drugs and flawed choices of lovers and mates: JFK's cruel manipulation and shadowy intervention is the final blow to her fragile ego and her very existence. It is no surprise when, at the end, Oates subscribes to a controversial theory about Monroe's demise. Meanwhile, she draws a sharp-eyed picture of Hollywood during the 1940s and `50s; introduces a cast of movie-town personalities, from actors and agents to producers, directors and studio heads; creates intriguing character sketches of Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller; and conveys a nation's fascination with a cultural icon. The inevitable drawbacks in a book of this sort--deliberate omission of events, imaginative reconstruction of public and other events from Monroe's point of view--are problematical but not crucial. In an author's note, Oates declares that her novel "is not intended as a historic document." Yet she illuminates the source of her subject's long emotional torment as few factual biographies ever do. 100,000 first printing; major ad/promo; Literary Guild alternate; simultaneous Harper Audio; 5-city author tour. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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