All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader

All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader

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by Yona Zeldis McDonough, Yona Zeldis McDonough

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No star in any genre has affected the world as deeply or has lasted as long without fading as Marilyn Monroe. This thought-provoking and wide-ranging collection of essays examines the undiminished incandescence of Marilyn Monroe — the impact she has had on our culture, the evolution of her legend since her death, and what she tells us now about our lives and


No star in any genre has affected the world as deeply or has lasted as long without fading as Marilyn Monroe. This thought-provoking and wide-ranging collection of essays examines the undiminished incandescence of Marilyn Monroe — the impact she has had on our culture, the evolution of her legend since her death, and what she tells us now about our lives and times — and includes previously unpublished work from some of America's best writers, such as: Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Elliot Dark, Albert Mobilo, Marge Piercy, Lore Segal, Lisa Shea, and many more.
From her troubled family beginnings to the infamous $13 million auction held at Christie's in New York City, All the Available Light paints an unforgettable portrait of Marilyn as you've never seen her before.
This extremely rare cover photo was taken c. 1954, on the set of The Seven Year Itch.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Natalia Ilyin author of Blonde Like Me: The Roots of the Blonde Myth in Our Culture All the Available Light does what no other book on Marilyn has been able to do: instead of plodding linearly through her facts and myth, pinning her identity under the lightbulb of interrogation, this rich group of essays produces a diffraction pattern, projects a three-dimensional image, delivers her to us like a hologram.

Patricia Kennealy Morrison author of Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison Sparkling and startling insights into the person and persona that both were Marilyn Monroe — this collection reminds us all of what we too often forget: that under every lambent icon dwells a living, breathing, hurting, joyous human soul.

Molly Jong-Fast author of Normal Girl All the Available Light glistens with luminescent essays from many glowing greats. This anthology shines more light directly on the face of America's greatest star.
This collection of essays serves as a fitting homage to Marilyn Monroe, the ultimate Hollywood icon. In diverse ways, these pieces respond to the essential question: Why, more than 40 years after her death, are we still so captivated by an actress whose career lasted only 16 years? Even the titles of these essays help convey Monroe's mythic qualities: "Mother, Daughter, Siren, Lover." "The Love Goddess Who Never Found Love." "The Woman Who Will Not Die." Contributors to this arresting volume include Molly Haskell, Gloria Steinem, Clare Boothe Luce, and Lisa Shea.
Publishers Weekly
Journalist and editor McDonough (The Barbie Chronicles) takes on an ambitious project: collecting thoughts about a woman whose every nuance has been so exhaustively discussed that nothing new, it seems, could possibly be said. Happily, McDonough pulls it off, delivering new insight into a star who absorbed all the available light and made it her own. With some new material and a wealth of previously published essays, the collection glitters with the inclusion of luminaries like Molly Haskell, Marge Piercy and Joyce Carol Oates. The pieces range widely in subject while keeping Marilyn at the center: Laurence Olivier writes of being charmed, somewhat against his will, by the bouncy star, while other essayists describe how the mere image of Marilyn changed the way they saw themselves or the world. Especially nice is McDonough's juxtaposition of pieces from different times, such as Clare Boothe Luce's 1964 article following Gloria Steinem's 1986 essay, with both taking a similar position on Love Goddess as victim, but from two very different angles. Often, the essayists question their own fascination and that of their readers. Steinem writes that Marilyn's untimely death may have something to do with it: When the past dies, there is mourning, but when the future dies, our imaginations are compelled to carry it on. A dissection of celebrity in a starstruck age, this collection is at once intelligent and fresh, proving once again why the Love Goddess will continue to live on. (Aug.) Forecast: A lovely cover (a b&w photograph of Marilyn in her bathrobe) and the timing of publication to the 40th anniversary of MM's death will boost sales. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Forty years after her death, one would think that enough had been written about Marilyn Monroe to satisfy even the most avid fan. Yet here is another book that looks at the legacy of this icon. McDonough, author of a forthcoming novel (The Four Temperaments) and, ironically, a tribute to the Barbie doll, has gathered together 17 essays by authors past and present who muse on Marilyn as cultural icon, sex goddess, victim, and actress. Joyce Carol Oates ("Centerfold") and Gloria Steinem ("The Woman Who Will Not Die") share these pages with Sir Laurence Olivier ("The Prince and the Showgirl") and Clare Booth Luce ("The Love Goddess Who Never Found Love"). Some of these pieces were previously published, some were excerpted from longer works, and some were written for this collection. At times, it is difficult to tell which have been previously published and where; McDonough would have done well to list this information along with the piece itself instead of in the introductions to each section. Like the essays, this book ranges greatly in tone and style. Recommended for libraries with extensive pop culture sections. Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Cty. Free Libs., Salinas, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of her tragic death, a collection of essays by feminists, film buffs, and literati about the legendary film goddess. McDonough (The Barbie Chronicles, 1999, etc.) selects articles from an array of talented writers including Marge Piercy, Kate Millet, and Gloria Steinem to explore Monroe’s painful contradictions. Admired by millions, she was painfully lonely and insecure; sexually provocative, she was delicate and childlike; capable of attracting “all the available light” in any room she entered, she was shy to the point of reclusiveness. An awesome turn-on but totally nonthreatening, she made an ideal transitional figure between the uptight ’50s and the sexual revolution. (If there hadn’t been a Marilyn, the editor notes, we would have had to invent her.) Much is made here of the iconic moments in her life: the windblown skirt over the subway grating in The Seven Year Itch, her singing of “Happy Birthday” to JFK at Madison Square Garden. Essays discuss her unhappy childhood, her determination to become a serious actor, and the cultural significance of her screen persona. Among the standouts are “Centerfold,” by Joyce Carol Oates, writing as if from Marilyn’s perspective; “The ‘Love Goddess’ Who Never Found Any Love,” by Claire Booth Luce; Laurence Olivier’s acid recollections of shooting The Prince and the Showgirl; and “Two Daughters,” a compelling piece by Dennis Grunes comparing Monroe with fellow ’50s icon and “Not-Marilyn” Audrey Hepburn. There are also a few oddities, such as an appreciation of Monroe’s singing, a discussion of how her girlish speaking voice influenced numerous women, including Jackie Kennedy, an account of her conversionto Judaism on the day she married Arthur Miller, and a final reflection on the Christie’s auction, decades after her death, of Monroe’s clothes, shoes, and other personal effects. Generally insightful and, like Monroe herself, displaying tender charm alongside the glitz.

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Read an Excerpt


Picture the following scenario if you can: A woman, now approaching eighty, is seated with her husband in the audience of the City Center of Music and Drama one evening in the late 1950s. They are waiting for the curtain to go up on a performance of the New York City Ballet. It must have been an electric moment. Here is a young and yet world-class ballet company whose founder and main choreographer — brilliant Russian-born George Balanchine — is in his prime. The theater itself, built in 1924 by the Ancient and Accepted Order of the Mystic Shrine, is wonderfully antic and absurd, with fanciful tiles in bright colors studding the outlandish surfaces of its architecture.

What were they going to see that night? Allegro Brillante? Agon? Stars and Stripes? A Midsummer Night's Dream? And who might have been dancing? Allegra Kent? Violette Verdy? Maria Tallchief? Melissa Hayden? It almost doesn't matter; it was sure to have been a spectacular night. But as the woman sat there, reading her program notes and chatting idly with her husband, she began to sense a kind of hum in the crowd, a certain energy that seemed to gather and swell, despite the fact that the curtain remained motionless and the lights had not yet begun to dim.

What could it be? She and her husband looked at each other, puzzled. Then they began to look around. There, in a balcony below, sat Marilyn Monroe and her then husband, Arthur Miller. The intensity of the excitement continued to grow as more and more people began first to whisper and then intone, "Marilyn, Marilyn." Sporadic clapping began; quickly it turned into an ovation, with people on their feet shouting out her name. One can only imagine how the dancers must have felt as they pawed the ground with their pointe shoes, as they always do before a performance, and did a few nervous relevés backstage. The giddy applause, the wild, joyful adulation rightfully belonged to them on that night: who could have stolen it? I'm sure that at some point they learned the answer and had to go on with the performance anyway, despite the fact that it must have been something of a letdown. For Marilyn, being Marilyn, did what she always seemed to do: she absorbed all the available light and made it her own.

When she was there — on screen, or in person — it became almost impossible to pay attention to anyone else. And maybe that, more than anything, was her special gift: the riveting of the collective attention to one face, one form, one voice, as it smiled and moved and utterly transformed everything around it.

I was too young to have known or appreciated the phenomenon that was Marilyn Monroe firsthand: I was five years old when she died on that August morning in 1962. But I can remember quite vividly the first televised image I saw of her: a clip of the now-famous rendition of "Happy Birthday" she sang for President John F. Kennedy. She wore a sparkling, beaded gown that seemed quite transparent, and beneath it, little or perhaps even nothing else. The spotlight quivered and dipped but was essentially confined to her radiant face; it never moved below, so that her nearly naked breasts and body remained in a kind of tantalizing shadow. Who would not be tantalized by her performance, this beautiful woman with the little-girl voice who embodied so many different kinds of resonant and unsettling paradoxes?

The facts of her life are, at this point, familiar signposts in the well-rehearsed legend. Born to Gladys Pearl Baker in Los Angeles on June 1, 1926, the name on her birth certificate is Norma Jean. Her father is nowhere in sight and her mother is soon diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. After a brief stint in an orphanage, little Norma Jean is bounced around from foster home to foster home. She marries a local neighbor boy at sixteen, embarks on a modeling career, and is soon discovered by a Hollywood movie executive. The husband is discarded, like so much else in her earlier life. In 1947, at the age of twenty-one, she appeared in her first motion picture; by 1950, her roles in such films as Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve begin to command attention. There are more films, of course, and eventually she achieves starring roles in them: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven-Year Itch, Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot. There are well-publicized marriages, to ballplayer Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller, and equally well-publicized divorces. And there are affairs, lots of them, with other movie stars, like Yves Montand, or with politicians, like the Kennedys. There are nervous breakdowns, bouts of depression, miscarriages, and suicide attempts. Finally, there is the drug overdose — intentional? accidental? — and on August 5, 1962, Marilyn's lovely light went out forever.

But in fact, this is hardly what happened. If anything, the legend that is Marilyn Monroe has even surpassed the life. For one thing, there are the films, and film grants a kind of immortality in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. Even though we may know, intellectually, that Marilyn Monroe died by her own hand from an overdose of barbiturates, when her violet-satin-clad body — seen in a series of mirrors — spans the screen five times over in How to Marry a Millionaire, or when her creamy, abundant flesh pours, once more, from the low-cut black negligee she wears in Some Like it Hot, she is with us still; she lives.

Hollywood has had its share of icons and sacrifices before and after her: James Dean, Carol Lombard, Jayne Mansfield, all had tragic and untimely deaths. But more than any other, Marilyn's is the story that continues to weave itself around our collective consciousness, Forty years later, she continues to captivate and compel, offering some elusive glimpse — perhaps it is a mirror, perhaps a window — into the soul of the life and times that traipsed on without her.

The essays in this book attempt to come to grips with her ongoing power to fascinate, to entrance, and to inspire. Some are taken from already existing material, for Marilyn's life and death prompted responses and analyses from any number of notable writers. Others were commissioned expressly for this volume and address what has happened in the forty years since she walked among us, the gap, as it were, between the reality — which of course we will never know — and the fantasy that has assumed an intricate and engaging pattern all its own. Marilyn — both the woman and the myth — remains at the center of it all.

Introduction, Reliquary, essay introductions, and essay compilation copyright © 2002 by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Meet the Author

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of the novels THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS and IN DAHLIA’S WAKE. She is also the editor of the essay collections THE BARBIE CHRONICLES: A LIVING DOLL TURNS FORTY and ALL THE AVAILABLE LIGHT: A MARILYN MONROE READER. Her short fiction, articles, and essays have been published in anthologies as well as in numerous national magazines, and newspapers. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I mean third result sorry
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be a little confusing at times. Some of the essays I really didn't understand, but that could also be because I'm so young. Don't get me wrong! The book was wonderful, but some the essays I was a little uncertain about. One essay in perticular I enjoyed was the Olivier essay. He didn't agree with her always, but he explained what he experienced.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tis was thought provocing and was a real trimbute to Marilyn her self. Very intersting