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Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

Blonde (2000)

by Joyce Carol Oates

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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 |
Blonde is essentially a fictionalized biography of Marilyn Monroe. Most of the significant events are based on facts known about Monroe but Oates adds narrative to speculate on Monroe’s inner conflict, mental state, and reactions to life events. In an author interview she acknowledged that she compressed various life events (multiple affairs, abortions, suicide attempts, etc) into one or two moments that were symbolic of the events that were not described. In addition, certain liberties were taken with expanding on rumors surrounding the actress.

I found this to be quite an interesting read although difficult at times given that she Marilyn did not have the happiest life. I knew relatively little about Marilyn’s life history (other than the stereotypical facts) before reading this book and I ended up researching some of the facts as I read this book. The book clearly has a feminist angle to it that at times felt heavy-handed. Oates makes the point that Marilyn was a woman exploited by male-dominated Hollywood environment. She often refers to her as “the blonde actress” instead of referring to her by name and this serves to accentuate the theory that Monroe was essentially a commodity to be manipulated by those around her. Despite this angle (e.g., focus on external factors influencing the trajectory of her life), Oates seems to have lived inside Monroe’s head when writing this book. Her fictionalized account of Monroe’s psyche was incredibly believable and seemingly very psychologically savvy. I think she did a fantastic job of highlighting a troubled personality in a very empathetic way. She clearly had great sympathy for the troubled actress.

I listened to this book as an audiobook read by Jayne Atkinson. At first I found the narration fairly irritating but over time it grew on me and ultimately I thought it was a good version. One of the things I loved about the audio was an interview at the end of the book with the author. I found it fascinating to listen to and get some insight into the process of writing this book. I gave it an extra star just for the insight the author provided about her book.
( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
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Joyce Carol Oatesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There came Death hurtling along the Boulevard in waning sepia light. - Prologue
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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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