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Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
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Blonde (2000)

by Joyce Carol Oates

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English (22)  Swedish (3)  French (3)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
She continues to impress me as a very creative and courageous writer. Very good read! ( )
  JosephKing6602 | Feb 4, 2014 |
This was a wonderful book. It took me just a little bit to really get into it (even though I was hooked right off the bat, it just wasn't super fast-paced initially), but once I did I sped through it, reading the bulk of this large tome in only two days. Oates' writing is fabulous, and her use of fictionalizing the story a bit enabled her to fully get into Marilyn's head and let us see her more fully, in a way that a straight non-fiction work couldn't do. I'm definitely interested in seeing what else Oates can do. ( )
  PolymathicMonkey | Jan 1, 2014 |
After I finished reading [Marilyn] by Gloria Steinem in August, my daughter suggested that I read [Blonde] to get another perspective.

Oates' [Blonde] is a fictionalized version of Marilyn Monroe's life from childhood through her death. Oates is a brilliant writer. She tells this story mostly through Norma Jean's increasingly manic mind, with some thoughts and imagined dialog with other characters. Norma Jean was the person, and Marilyn Monroe was the persona she used in front of the camera. She wanted to be called Norma, and Marilyn was the character she pulled out of the mirror. She didn't want to be the dumb blonde, but to fulfill her contract with the studio she let them put her in movies that depicted her that way. When she talked about some of the books she had read, she was not believed. Where Steinem handled Monroe's story with kid gloves, Oates' version lets everything hang out, warts and all. She makes us very aware from the beginning that this is fiction, but so much of it is just a grittier version of the story told by Steinem, that it is hard to tell where fact ends and fiction begins. Oates uses names for many of the characters, and identifies others by initials. For instance, C is Tony Curtis, and yet Clark Gable is Clark Gable. She calls the husbands the Ex-Athlete (Joe DiMaggio) and the Playwright (Arthur Miller).

In both versions, Norma Jean had a terrible childhood. Her mother was institutionalized from the time she was a little girl. Norma Jean was passed from one family friend to foster homes to orphanages until she was "encouraged" to marry at the age of 16. She was discovered while her first husband was off fighting during WWII. He and his family did not approve. Despite her fame, she was always in debt. The Studio paid her much less than her costars even though the movies were making lots of money because of her. She had numerous affairs. Her marriages were failures. She spent her life wanting to know who her father was, wanting to be loved, and wanting to be a mother. But her addictions to drugs and alcohol led to her self destruction and eventual suicide.

In Steinem's hands the story was factual. In JCO's hands, the story was imaginative and at times poetic. At 738 pages, it took me much longer to read than I would have expected. Much of that was because I had many distractions this past month, but mostly it was because I kept going to the internet to look up facts related to the story that was unfolding. ( )
5 vote NanaCC | Nov 23, 2013 |
This is my favorite JCO book. If a novel could be a masterful impressionistic painting, this is what it would read like. Blonde is lovely and lyrical from first word to last. Unlike biography it paints a portrait of an interior world, one that seems to me to match up with the strange life of the American icon that was Marilyn. ( )
  Maryka | Oct 21, 2013 |
Okay, I didn't finish this, but it won't let me add it otherwise.
  AmberTheHuman | Aug 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joyce Carol Oatesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:19 -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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