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Blonde (2000)

by Joyce Carol Oates

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,891546,916 (3.95)307
Audio includes an in-depth interview with the author and Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW's Bookworm. She was an all-American girl who became a legend of unparalleled stature. She inspired the adoration of millions, and her life has beguiled generations of fans and fellow artists. The story of Norma Jeane Baker -- better known by her studio name "Marilyn Monroe" -- has been dissected for more than three decades, but never has it been captured in a narrative as breathtaking and transforming as Blonde. In her most ambitious work to date, Joyce Carol Oates, one of America's most distinguished writers, reimagines the inner, poetic, and spiritual life of Norma Jeane Baker -- the child, the woman, the fated celebrity -- and tells the story in Norma Jeane's own voice: startling, rich, and shattering. Drawing on biographical and historical sources, Joyce Carol Oates evokes the distinct consciousness of the woman and the unsparing reflection of the myth, writing as she has never written before -- ecstatic, completely absorbed, inhabited as if by the spirit of her extraordinary subject. Rich with psychological insight and disturbing irony, this mesmerizing narrative illumines Norma Jeane's lonely childhood, wrenching adolescence, and the creation of "Marilyn Monroe." With fresh insights into the heart of a celebrity culture hypnotized by its own myths, Blonde is a sweeping novel about the elusive magic of a woman, the lasting legacy of a star, and the heartbreak behind the creation of the most evocative icon of the twentieth century.… (more)
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» See also 307 mentions

English (47)  French (5)  Swedish (2)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
[Blonde] by [[Joyce Carol Oates]]

[Blonde] is an epic fictional biography of the life of Norma Jean Baker, better known as Marilyn Monroe. The book covers her life from birth to death in great detail, creating a compelling picture of a woman whose troubled childhood and then abuse by the film industry led to her downfall and death.

I knew very little about Marilyn Monroe, and now I realize that nobody, maybe even not Norma Jean herself, knew Monroe. JCO's portrait reveals a woman so used to being constructed by everyone around her that there ends up being almost no person underneath to know.

This is incredibly sad and hard to read about. I thought a lot about the intense sexism and control that men had over women, even famous and supposedly powerful women. There is also a focus on how a troubled childhood leads to a damaged adult.

In some ways, I loved this book. But I also was somewhat bored in sections. It is a really long book - over 700 pages of a small font - and in certain sections I felt like I didn't need to read more because I already got what JCO was going for. But, then again, it ends up being an incredibly convincing portrait and in that way is masterfully written.

I didn't like her version of the ending, i.e. Marilyn's death. ( )
2 vote japaul22 | Nov 21, 2021 |
Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates is the author’s portrait of an American icon, Marilyn Monroe, and while the author illuminates her life, it’s biggest impact is how she was able to get inside her subject and deliver interior dialogues that felt visceral and real. We know Marilyn Monroe through her appearance and her work in film, she’s the dumb/smart blonde, the sexy bombshell. We have also read enough about her in the past to see her as a lost soul, a self-destructive diva, a star that was used and abused by Hollywood.

In this novel, Joyce Carol Oates brings her to life and gives her a voice on these pages. Using the facts of Marilyn Monroe's life and blending in the author's insights, we learn that Norma Jeane Baker was doomed almost from birth. She was damaged by her single parent mother and she grew up never knowing her father. By the time she was eleven, her mother was in a psychiatric hospital and Norma Jeane was in an orphanage and later foster homes. Her first marriage was at fifteen and she appeared to be searching for a father figure most of her life. Although today she is remembered as the leading sex symbol of the 1950s this engrossing novel gives us not only Marilyn but is an epic story about the dangers and pitfalls of becoming a celebrity. We experience her triumphs and her downfalls, her troubled private life, along with her addictions and mental disorders.

Blonde plays upon mythology of Marilyn Monroe but also delivers a story of a character that is imaginative, engrossing and complex. I had become a fan of this author through her short stories and this was the first full-length novel of hers that I have read, and although I have to admit I did find this novel of over 750 pages to be overly long, my admiration for Joyce Carol Oates has grown. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Nov 8, 2021 |
This is a novel about Marilyn Monroe and is written by Joyce Carol Oates which tells you pretty much all you need to know about it, except it's also pretty long. And the length did something to me as I read. Oates's ability to dig into the unsavory corners and to lean into the uncomfortable, combined with the stark facts of Monroe's life became, for me, an utterly immersive reading experience, where I thought about this book even while I wasn't reading it. I raced through it, until I neared the end, where I found myself slowing down, unwilling to let go of the hope that the novel ended with Monroe living happily in a farmhouse with lots of babies, doing some community playhouse as her hobby. And of course I knew all along that that was never going to be the ending, but Oates had drawn me so deeply into this damaged woman's life that I couldn't help but hope.

The facts of Monroe's life are well-known and so Oates plays with them, changing the story in ways small and large, to show the long-term effects of unaddressed childhood trauma. But JCO is also looking at all the ways Monroe was used and victimized, and how she refused to see herself as the victim, working relentlessly to make a place for herself, until the sheer weight of it all dragged her under. There's a new sub-genre of books by women, about women who ruin their own lives and it strikes me that although this book is two decades older than that trend, it wouldn't be out of place among them. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Aug 7, 2021 |
The author really manages to get into the head of the main character and generally gets it right. Fantastically written manages capture the era well. ( )
  charlie68 | Jun 5, 2021 |
Such a sad, sad book. It was so easy to identify with Norma Jean and for your heart to break for Marilyn. Wonderfully written. ( )
  authenticjoy | Nov 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Oates, Joyce Carolprimary 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Audio includes an in-depth interview with the author and Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW's Bookworm. She was an all-American girl who became a legend of unparalleled stature. She inspired the adoration of millions, and her life has beguiled generations of fans and fellow artists. The story of Norma Jeane Baker -- better known by her studio name "Marilyn Monroe" -- has been dissected for more than three decades, but never has it been captured in a narrative as breathtaking and transforming as Blonde. In her most ambitious work to date, Joyce Carol Oates, one of America's most distinguished writers, reimagines the inner, poetic, and spiritual life of Norma Jeane Baker -- the child, the woman, the fated celebrity -- and tells the story in Norma Jeane's own voice: startling, rich, and shattering. Drawing on biographical and historical sources, Joyce Carol Oates evokes the distinct consciousness of the woman and the unsparing reflection of the myth, writing as she has never written before -- ecstatic, completely absorbed, inhabited as if by the spirit of her extraordinary subject. Rich with psychological insight and disturbing irony, this mesmerizing narrative illumines Norma Jeane's lonely childhood, wrenching adolescence, and the creation of "Marilyn Monroe." With fresh insights into the heart of a celebrity culture hypnotized by its own myths, Blonde is a sweeping novel about the elusive magic of a woman, the lasting legacy of a star, and the heartbreak behind the creation of the most evocative icon of the twentieth century.

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