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Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
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Blonde (2000)

by Joyce Carol Oates

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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
What an amazing book! It illustrates to me what an artist's work is, at its core. Joyce Carol Oates started with the facts of Norma Jean Baker's life and in the crucible of her imagination created a great work of fiction in which she imagined what it would have been like to live her strange life -- in which Marilyn Monroe was but one of many characters. I loved it for so many reasons...primarily for the multi-faceted and fascinating character she created. The icon we know as Marilyn Monroe became a real person on the pages of this book, someone driven, brilliant, insecure, mystical, disciplined, helpless and a victim of her own beauty. It also is a wonderful snapshot of America in the 50's and early 60's, capturing both the frightening politics of the McCarthy era and a time when women had not yet begun to liberate themselves. Was this really only 50 years ago? While Norma Jean is the primary narrator, Oates also writes from the perspectives of other people in her life -- sometimes first person, sometimes third person -- and uses typography to help the reader figure out the shifts in narrator. She also includes fictional journal entries, including poem fragments, from the notebook Norma Jean kept throughout her life. This is a book I'm keeping, not lending, because I know I will want to read it again. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
I can't recommend this fictionalized version of the life of Marilyn Monroe more highly. I had put off reading it for a long time since it is so voluminous (more than 700 pages), but almost every word resonates, and it is well-worth the time invested (though that was much less than might be thought, since it is such a compelling read).

Oates warns in her forward that this book should not be read as a historic document--she calls it a radically distilled "life" in the form of fiction. She states that in place of numerous lovers, medical crises, abortions, and suicide attempts, she has selected a symbolic few, although the husbands are there, referred to as "the ex-athlete" and "the playwright". (There was also a brief early marriage to "Bucky"). However, I think that the book captures the essence of Marilyn Monroe, who was a mass of contradictions--the "dumb blonde" and the intellectual, the prude and the sex-pot, the little girl and the sophisticate. Overall, Oates depicts Marilyn's life as a search for her father (she frequently called her lovers and husbands "Daddy"). Moreover, the book is a fascinating inside look at the avarice and brutality of Hollywood and its insiders as they exploit "Norma Jean" and create the fiction of Marilyn Monroe.

There are some readers who don't care for Oates's writing style. She sometimes tends to run on. I don't find that a problem, and I loved this book. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 25, 2017 |
“In life, the woman was hell and in hell; on film, divine.”

-Billy Wilder

“Beauty is a question of optics. All sight is illusion.”

This is a fictionalized account of Norma Jeane Baker, aka Marilyn Monroe. From a stuttering, neglected, little girl, to a drugged out, burned out starlet. It is not an easy read. This woman is relentlessly abused, exploited, raped and scorned for 700 pages. Nightmarish and hallucinogenic. What makes it captivating and readable, is the author's terrific writing skill and wildly ambitious approach. She has surely done her homework too, capturing many facets of the film industry and her complex relationships, with her many husbands. Do not take this as a true biography, but if your stomach and brain can handle the abuse, give it a try. ( )
  msf59 | Aug 26, 2016 |
Breathing Lessons begins with Maggie and Ira Moran leaving their home in Baltimore to go to a funeral a few hour’s drive away. Maggie’s childhood friend Serena has lost her husband to cancer. They drive to the funeral, and on their way back they visit their daughter-in-law, Fiona, whose marriage to their son fell apart. The whole story takes place in a day, but there are several flashbacks to the time when they first meet, to the early years of their marriage, and to the time of the dissolution of their son’s marriage.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Got quite a ways into it but decided it was too depressing and altering my view of Marilyn Monroe. Book is fiction as declared at the beginning by Oates, but her use of the names of real people like Richard Widmark. Took it back to the library. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joyce Carol Oatesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Eleanor Bergstein, and for Michael Goldman
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There came Death hurtling along the Boulevard in waning sepia light. - Prologue
This movie I've been seeing all my life, yet never to its completion.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 006093493X, Paperback)

Penzler Pick, April 2000: It is surprising and shocking to realize that Joyce Carol Oates, one of the great writers living today, has never made The New York Times bestseller list (at least not in recent memory). Far less talented (and less famous) authors have made it while she, in all likelihood not caring much, has been shut out. That could easily change with her new novel, Blonde, which may be the masterpiece of a staggeringly distinguished career.

This 700-plus-page tome is based on the life of (you guessed it) Marilyn Monroe. In fictional form, with names changed (husband Joe DiMaggio is referred to as "The Ex-Athlete," Arthur Miller as "The Playwright," John F. Kennedy as "The President," for example), this may be the most accurate and compelling portrait of this beautiful and complex woman that one is ever likely to read.

But why discuss it on the mystery page, you might well be asking yourself. It was the author's intent to structure the book as a mystery, and of course she succeeds, as she seems to succeed at everything she attempts in the world of letters. And there is a murder, apparently arranged by a secret government bureau (FBI? CIA?), although that could be the victim's hallucination. Of course, it could also be both real and hallucinated (remember, even paranoids have enemies).

If you like biographies, you'll like Blonde. If you like novels, you'll like Blonde. If you like mysteries, you'll like Blonde. And if you fear that more than 700 pages by one of the greatest of living literary lions might be tough slogging, here's a little excerpt from the chapter titled "The President's Pimp:"

Sure he was a pimp.

But not just any pimp. Not him!

He was a pimp par excellence. A pimp nonpareil. A pimp sui generis. A pimp with a wardrobe, and a pimp with style. A pimp with a classy Brit accent. Posterity would honor him as the President's Pimp.

A man of pride and stature: the President's Pimp.

At Rancho Mirage in Palm Springs in March 1962 there was the President poking him in the ribs with a low whistle. "That blonde. That's Marilyn Monroe?"

He told the President yes it was. Monroe, a friend of his. Luscious, eh? But a little crazy.

Thoughtfully, the President asked, "Have I dated her yet?"

Nothing inaccessible about Joyce Carol Oates, especially in this most readable and relentlessly fascinating study of the lovely woman with whom the whole country was at least a little in love. --Otto Penzler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:21 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A fictional recreation of the life of Marilyn Monroe recounts the tale of her rise to stardom, as seen from Marilyn's perspective

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