Blondeby Published 30 Apr 2002
|Format||Mass Market Paperback|
|Publisher||Le Livre de Poche|
In her most ambitious work to date, Joyce Carol Oates boldly reimagines the inner, poetic, and spiritual life of Norma Jeane Baker -- the child, the woman, the fated celebrity and idolized blonde the world came to know as Marilyn Monroe. In a voice startlingly intimate and rich, Norma Jeane tells her own story of an emblematic American artist -- intensely conflicted and driven -- who had lost her way. A powerful portrait of Hollywood's myth and an extraordinary woman's heartbreaking reality, "Blonde" is a sweeping epic that pays tribute to the elusive magic and devastation behind the creation of the great twentieth-century American star.
YOU MUST READ THIS! It must one of the BEST novels of all time. (About this topic I will NEVER kid about...)
Seeing the elusive, the ephemeral, through different filters-- a jaguar prowling through the jungle, a baby left all alone, as if you had the privilege to do so in the first place. "Blonde" is a privilege to read-- the rarest of rare novel/poetry book combos. Why read itty bitty poetry in its refracted, basically restricted state? Read novels, exemplary novels like this one, for a novel like "Blonde" kicks the ass of those tiny singular books... there is poetry in each and every page. Undertaking this journey is a huge endeavor for the reader. This humongous tale for the reader is a grotesque fairy tale through & through.
Norma Jean's thoughts/actions occur in present tense, in actual time, & also in fatalistic retrospection. It is a topsy turvy house of horror.
This is an expert fictionalization; momentous literature which must be absolutely devoured.
The saga is sublime. The topic, the figurehead that is Marilyn Monroe, is and has been ultimately misinterpreted. But thanks to Joyce Carol Oates (give her a Nobel already [I mean, even Coetzee and Saramago have one!]) and her extensive research, the meat on the bones are as beautiful and enigmatic as the person herself (and by this, I mean Monroe AND J.C.O.: their collaboration is what dreams are made of. Their nightmare is our heaven).
(Strange to figure how many modern actresses wish to emulate the gorgeous blond, they try time after time, and the great actress tried so much to be the character she was chosen to portray. She was even painfully paranoid of her fictional characterizations drifting into her real life like ghosts!)
Consider Oates's Norma Jean as a 20th century Emma Bovary-- but with something to offer the outside world. And of this many great Hollywood men took notice, and the exploitation that ensues is demonic. The elusive father figure-- Norma Jean never met hers, and so what happens is a collection of men she disgustingly refers to as "Daddy." (see? Even porno stars want to be Marilyn!) She becomes addicted to Codeine tablets, super quick solutions to issues which stem all the way from infancy. There is a patina of infinite sadness, of devastation being covered up for the sake of illusion and the glimmering of the silver screen. The novel is filled with endings-- conceivably, almost every section in the story could be a possible way for Oates to finish her masterpiece-- the prolongment is absolutely masochistic and inspiring, if that makes any sense. The novel that starts off with dolls, star homes and star funerals is undoubtedly what awaits the girl (beautiful and young corpse) at the end. Everything: sad, with a foretaste of certain doom, of impending tragedy. The girl devoted to God and literature and meaty roles (as evidenced by her poems and musings which) beg the reader to feel defensive of her, of this child in a woman's body, The Woman's body. The cooly complex metaphysical stuff (this is a 21st century novel after all and all the Greats brought out all their tricks at this point) is infused with intelligence, and, yes, MAGIC. Marilyn is a woman who falls out of time. She recalls scripts that have never even existed before but compete with her actual life-- she's smart beyond recognition, she is not dumb AT ALL. She juxtaposes art with life, and this is what all actresses, all good actresses, must feel for their art. She suffers for her art like any other artist worth his or her salt.
It is pretty rare for literature to be so perfectly precise in emulating the theme and source it describes: like the person herself (R.I.P) the novel, for me, will remain unique and unforgettable.
Finally finished, wish I were still reading, all magic is gone from life now, pls advs.
This is the New Feminist Text. I honestly think if every gal too young to remember (or too young to even have a mother who actively remembers the effects of) the women's movement of the 60s were given a copy of this book, we'd have much less patriarchy snackdom in the world, much more equal pay, and way fewer pointy-toed stilettos.
Marilyn Monroe was continuously, systematically screwed over, pawned, and sucked dry by man after man (playwright and athlete and high school sweetheart alike) -- as well as by Men™, which includes not just men, but all the women, gentlemen, scholars, mathematicians, AND carpenters' wives who agree that the female body is but a glittery, soft object for boys to ogle, pet, and circle-jerk off to from the comforts of the Oval Office or locker-room bench alike -- an object off of which there's billions to be made! -- throughout her brief life.
All the girls these days who walk around purring docilely between bouts of bulimia in designer skinnyjeans on their way to have their antidepressant prescriptions refilled need to read this book and then get back to us on whether or not they still think calling themselves -- and maybe actually BECOMING -- feminists is unnecessary.
Update: I'm absorbing this book slowly through a long & visually unremarkable osmotic process... or maybe it's the other way around, and I'm ITS prey. Either way, I'm only a little more than halfway through, and I think I might experience actual, physical withdrawal when I'm done.
For madness is seductive, sexy. Female madness.
So long as the female is reasonably young and attractive.
= why I love Joyce Carol Oates
This book was marvellous in many ways! It's a fictional piece of work following the life of Norma Jeane Baker, aka. Marilyn Monroe, from she's a child till her death as a 36-year-old woman devoured and intoxicated with drugs, medication and alcohol. It's a tragic life story, but it's hugely inspiring as well, and if you have even the faintest interest in Marilyn Monroe's life I would highly recommend this book.
To me, one of the most interesting aspects of "Blonde" was how it balances fiction and facts. It's based on the truth, but it's retold through another person who, I assume, hasn't ever met Monroe and only know her through the media coverage that we all have access to. This book reads like great fiction, but simultaneously I learned so much about Monroe's fascinating life and development into the sexy icon she became.
I LOVED THIS! I have never read anything like this, and I know that this book has impacted me hugely. I will remember and cherish it for a long time to come because it speaks of a life so beloved, intriguing, tragic and yet fascinating, and it does so wonderfully. What a piece of art "Blonde" is!
I have conflicting emotions about this book, and it goes something like this, “The book is about Marilyn, so what is there NOT to like about it, right? Warts and all, it is a powerful book written by a powerful writer.” But the song that keeps playing in my head, the words that keep haunting me, comes from the voice of another writer, This is the story of a rape.
“This is the story of a rape, of the events that led up to it and followed it and of the place in which it happened. There are the action, the people and the place; all of which are interrelated but in their totality incommunicable in isolation from the moral continuum of human affairs.”
There is something so ugly and disturbing about Joyce Carol Oates’s interpretation of Marilyn’s life that if one were to take away the author’s name, one would suspect it was written by a loathsome mysogynist, hell-bent on destroying every last vestige of humanity in Marilyn Monroe, movie-queen, and Norma Jeane Baker, innocent dreamer.
I fell into a trance in the first few hundred pages, falling subject to Norma Jeane’s unquenchable spirit. Even tossed about by the vagaries of her early years, the reader sees how Norma Jeane was destined for some kind of greatness. She was an indefatigable optimist; a resilient life force that did battle with her mother’s depression and burgeoning insanity, and from under which she sprang out stronger still. It was only later, after the little fighter had grown into a vibrant woman who had been knocked down one too many times that the inherited depression finally consumed her and dragged her into hell. In the intervening years she fought -- and fought like hell -- to hang onto the dream of “getting out alive” and making something of her life. The reader can’t help but feel an overwhelming sadness, and fatalism, because unlike the young Norma Jeane, we know how the story ends.
So far, so good, despite its all-consuming sadness.
Then, Oates’s fangs come out. She reveals to us her secret loathing for Marilyn, sub-consciously played out in the voice of the men who hated The Blonde Actress: cow, cunt, stupid cunt, mammalian bitch, tramp, slut, WHORE, sucker of cocks, depressed whacko bitch, stupid cunt, stupid cunt, stupid cunt. OK, we hear you. But that’s the point: I don’t hear the voice of the men so much as I hear Oates’s voice in my head: you whore, you bitch, you cunt. The sub-text screams to me so loudly, it’s like a punch in the face by Oates, every slander uttered.
This is nothing but a vile peep show, it occurred to me half way through the novel. Here I am, engaging in the tearing down of the movie-queen, complicit in the act of rape. No one is forcing me to read this book, just like no one forced Oates to write it.
The voyeuristic quality is enhanced by the protracted use of the third person: The Blonde Actress, The Ex-Athlete, The Playwright, The President. We, the readers, are standing in the red light district, leering into the dimly-lit and dirty window where the young woman lies exposed and vulnerable. No one looks away, either out of decency or revulsion. A human being is being torn apart, and we continue to be complicit in her excoriation.
You won’t write about me, will you, Daddy? You won’t write about me, will you? You won’t write about me?
Knowing this -- knowing how much Norma Jeane abhorred being written about in her Marilyn persona -- Oates revels in ignoring her plea. Like the paparazzi who swoop like carrion birds, she licks up every last intimate detail and splatters it luridly for our consumption.
Disturbingly, Oates seems even more obsessed with Marilyn’s body than the raving fans: dwelling, obsessively, on skin and excretions and secretions, ad nauseam. She is pre-occupied with Marilyn’s sexual intimacies and her miscarriages and her womb. She is so consumed by Marilyn’s womb, in fact, that she leaves us with the notion she believes all Marilyn ever was, was a big gaping receptacle of vileness, hungry for as much degradation as she could possibly contain. Over and over again, we hear stupid cunt, hailed as the avenue to the stinking, infertile receptacle. Marilyn’s womb did not bear fruit, after all -- it was simply another secreting, foul failure of our movie-queen.
“I’m always running into people’s unconscious.” Those words, prophetically spoken by Marilyn Monroe in her empty-headed persona, shine quite a light on this fictional biography. Oates seems to have run smack into the middle of her own “unconscious” while trying to explore Marilyn’s.
As much as art can be an exploratory medium to expose the vileness of the world and act as a cathartic force for change, just as often it reveals the vileness or the victim within. It often uncovers our own hidden truths and reveals to us our own failings. When confronted with ourselves, it thus becomes easy to say “this is just art” when we really should be admitting “this is me.”
As much as this was an authoritative book then, it was an equally forceful indictment of the things that should not be said. Certain secrets should not be violated. Add to that, there are some books that should never have been written, despite the truths they hold. This is one of them.
So many will disagree -- because it was written by an influential writer, and it’s art.
I wasn't really sure how to go about reviewing this book at first, but then I came up with a solution, and it's a reviewing style I'll call The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Here we go.
The Good: Of course, Joyce Carol Oates is a scary-talented author and I bow at her feet. The writing in this book goes from staggeringly beautiful to heart-wrenchingly sad, and all of it is masterfully executed. The fact is, no matter what the following might say, I would probably give my left foot to be able to write like Oates does. So let's move on.
The Bad: The story, a fictionalized account of Marilyn Monroe's life, is yet another thrilling installment in this author's Men Are Evil And Will Hurt You saga. Okay Joyce, I get that Marilyn had issues. I get that men pushed her around. But honestly:
"Then came her fairy godmother to tell her: There's a secret way into the Walled Garden!
There's a hidden door in the wall, but you must wait like a good little girl for this door to be opened....You must win over the doorkeeper - an old, ugly, green-skinned gnome. You must make the doorkeeper take notice of you. You must make the doorkeeper desire you. And then he will love you and will do your bidding! Smile! Smile, and be happy! Smile, and take off your clothes! For your Magic Friend in the mirror will help you....the old, ugly green-skinned gnome was really a prince under an evil enchantment, and he will kneel before you and ask for your hand in marriage, and you will live with him happily forever in his Garden kingdom; never will you be a lonely, unhappy little girl again.
So long as you remain with your Prince in the Walled Garden."
And I haven't even mentioned how she calls each of her husbands "Daddy". Really, Joyce: you can cut the subtlety with a freaking battle axe here.
The Ugly: Several of Marilyn Monroe's movies are described in the book, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot. These are two of my favorite movies - or I should say, they used to be. I'm not sure, because I haven't tried watching them, but they might be ruined for me.
Can we talk about Some Like It Hot for a minute here? Oates's book tries to make the case that by this point in Marilyn Monroe's career everyone was disgusted with her, and her love interest in the movie, "C" (aka Tony Curtis) was so grossed out by her that he hating acting in the romantic scenes with her.
Okay. Tony Curtis's autobiography, American Prince: A Memoir, recently came out, and I read an excerpt in Vanity Fair. He was writing about Marilyn and how they used to date before she was famous and had red hair (two things that aren't in the book - HA! Joyce Carol Oates, I know something you don't know!). Anyway, they weren't going out when they made the movie, but he was still attracted to her. According to Curtis, he totally had a hard-on for that entire scene in the yacht, and Marilyn knew it.
What's Oates's take on the movie? Here you go: "And so C despised her & at their climactic kissing scene how he'd wish to spit into Sugar Kane's phony ingenue face for by this time the mere touch of Monroe's leathery skin revulsed him & C would be Monroe's enemy for life & after her death what tales C would tell of her!"
I really, really hope that Tony Curtis reads Blonde. And I hope he sends Joyce Carol Oates a letter that goes like this:
"Dear Ms. Oates - Rot in hell, you pretentious feminazi asshole. What gives you the right to write down Marilyn's life for her and assign roles to each of us so we could all look like evil bastards compared to her? You didn't know her, you didn't know any of us, and you're no better than all the tabloids, exploiting her fame and her death to make money.
Fuck you very much,
Madeline Tony Curtis."
I must say, the man has a point.