Blonde
by Joyce Carol Oates
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"A lush-bodied girl in the prime of her physical beauty. In an ivory georgette crepe sundress with a halter top that gathers her breasts up in soft undulating folds of the fabric. She's standing with bare legs apart on a New York subway grating. Her blond head is thrown rapturously back as an updraft lifts her full, flaring skirt, exposing white cotton panties. White cotton! The ivory-crepe sundress is floating and filmy as magic. The dress is magic. Without the dress the girl would be female meat, raw and exposed. "

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. This most intimate portrait of Norma Jeane reveals a fragile, idiosyncratically gifted young woman who makes and remakes her identity, ever managing to survive against crushing odds to become the definition of stardom. Bit by bit, she tells her own epic story of how an emblematic American artist--perpetually conflicted and intensely driven--lost her way.

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."

Distorted and misunderstood, the muted voice of Norma Jeane and the grand legacy of Marilyn Monroe are also a looking glass into the shadow-world of Hollywood. While paying tribute to the elusive art of acting and moviemaking, Joyce Carol Oates depicts the chilling panorama of an industry that nourishes and devours the "pure products" of America.

Blonde offers astonishing-and often disturbing--portraits of the powerful men in Norma Jeane's life: the Ex-Athlete, the Playwright, the President, the Dark Prince.

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.

All Reviews

4 + 72 in other languages
ElaineElaine wrote a review
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In her preface to the book Joyce Carol Oates warns the reader that the novel is not a biography of Marilyn Monroe, but a fictional reconstruction of her life, and more importantly, her 'soul',in which 'synecdoche is the principle of appropriation' (meaning that she'd merge many events into one, or select only parts of Monroe's story). While this is an acceptable practice for writers of historical fiction, in the book Oates goes far beyond the principle of synedoche, and she falsifies basic biographical or historical data that would not have hurt the narration and that only required a quick check. Example: she says that Arthur Miller graduated from Rutgers University but I discovered that he graduated from Michigan University instead, without this change being in any way useful to the story. This fact makes me question all the historical information about Marilyn in the novel, and feel that I have not learned anything about this actress but rather about another character who may as well have been called something else.
Having said that, the novel itself is the compelling narration of the undoing of a soul; it is an enduring portrayal of a fragile yet charming personality trapped in a voluptuos body that people wanted to market and exploit and ultimately despise; it perfectly describes a desperate search for love and validation through male desire and the transforming eye of the camera.
The book made me fall in love with Marilyn Monroe and I think I will now read a more historically accurate- if less fascinating- biography of this American diva.
LindaLinda wrote a review
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Stefano CafaggiStefano Cafaggi wrote a review
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BeckyBecky wrote a review
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