The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe [NOOK Book]


A brilliant investigation into the debates surrounding Marilyn Monroe's life and the cultural attitudes that her legend reveals

There are many Marilyns: sex goddess and innocent child, crafty manipulator and dumb blonde, liberated woman and tragic loner. Indeed, the writing and rewriting of this endlessly intriguing icon's life has produced more than six hundred books, from the long procession of "authoritative" biographies to the memoirs and plays by ex-husband Arthur Miller ...

See more details below
The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$7.99 price


A brilliant investigation into the debates surrounding Marilyn Monroe's life and the cultural attitudes that her legend reveals

There are many Marilyns: sex goddess and innocent child, crafty manipulator and dumb blonde, liberated woman and tragic loner. Indeed, the writing and rewriting of this endlessly intriguing icon's life has produced more than six hundred books, from the long procession of "authoritative" biographies to the memoirs and plays by ex-husband Arthur Miller and the works by Norman Mailer and Joyce Carol Oates. But even as the books have multiplied, myth, reality, fact, fiction, and gossip have become only more intertwined; there is still no agreement about such fundamental questions as Marilyn's given name, the identity of her father, whether she was molested as a child, and how and why she died.

The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe reviews the unreliable and unverifiable-but highly significant-stories that have framed the greatest Hollywood legend. All the while, cultural critic Sarah Churchwell reveals us to ourselves: our conflicted views on women, our tormented sexual attitudes, our ambivalence about success, our fascination with self-destruction.

In incisive and passionate prose, Churchwell uncovers the shame, belittlement, and anxiety that we bring to the story of a woman we supposedly adore. In the process, she rescues a Marilyn Monroe who is far more complicated and credible than the one we think we know.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Rather than add to the canon of morbid Monroe speculation, Times Literary Supplement contributor Churchwell steps back to examine the examiners and ask: why has so much been written about Monroe, and what does this fixation say about our society? She doesn't provide any answers, but focuses instead on the phenomenon-she's fascinated by the investigation itself. Although Churchwell touches briefly on the few factual areas where biographers and conspiracy theorists agree, such as Monroe's marriages and film stats, she chooses to linger on the numerous crux points for commentators. Even something as mundane as how Monroe developed her characteristic hip-swinging strut has been hotly debated: the head of the star's former modeling agency maintains it was because of weak ankles, but an acting coach claims he invented it, and a gossip columnist insists Monroe shaved off part of one high heel so her walk would be uneven. Instead of trying to find the truth, Churchwell ponders why such seemingly minor aspects of Monroe's image draw such fervid attention in a culture already saturated with image, celebrity and sex. Churchwell culls a wealth of information about Monroe, providing insight on our celebrity culture, with a refreshingly detached perspective. 13 b&w photos. Agent, Angela Rose at Granta UK. (Jan. 10) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Frequently dissected in an attempt to uncover the person behind the star, Marilyn Monroe now resides as a myth that reflects our culture's complex attitudes, values, and critical judgments of celebrity, success, and life. Taking a fresh approach to the subject, Churchwell (American literature & culture, Univ. of East Anglia) focuses on the stories themselves and the legend they created in an attempt to determine not who Monroe was but who she became as a result. Churchwell studies the writings of various biographers, novelists, journalists, and commentators (notably those of Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, and Monroe's onetime husband Arthur Miller), analyzing the content and nuance of these works and underlining subsequent reactions by the public and the media. The result is a well-researched yet disturbing look at an enigmatic woman and the confusing culture that made her an icon. For circulating libraries.-Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Astute scrutiny of "the perilous and fascinating lines between fact and fiction, between desire and contempt, between knowledge and doubt," as demonstrated in critical and biographical treatments of the iconic sex goddess. Monroe is a brutally oversold image, writes Churchwell (Literature and Culture/Univ. of East Anglia), "an icon of desirability and a stereotype of pathological femininity." On the one hand, Monroe is a myth, relecting and sanctioning our cultural values; on the other, as Churchwell makes clear, her symbolic relationship to femininity, sexuality, Hollywood, and celebrity has become what the author calls a dead metaphor, "a metaphor that has lost its figurative power, and gets taken literally." Churchwell wades into the various biographies, biographical novels, plays, and photo-essay, from Fred Guiles and Barbara Leaming to Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, and the truly weird Frank Capell, staunch anticommunist and hater of all things Kennedy. With sparkling clarity, she analyzes how these works feed our notions of spectacle, commodity, and representation. Worst of all, they just don't get it right: Churchwell, who can be coruscating, dubs one psychological profile "stupid to the point of incomprehensibility." She's an author of the if-it-looks-smells-and-tastes-like-an-apple-it-is-an-apple school of thought. Writing about Leaming's comment that the skin-tight gold lame Monroe wore in 1952 to an awards ceremony showed that the actress was "hell-bent on self-destruction," Churchwell dryly adds, "rather than the more obvious goal of self-promotion." She would like to liberate Monroe from such glib characterizations, especially those that use the name the actress discardedto make sentimental assumptions about her "real" personality. "Marilyn Monroe was a real person," she writes. "It is Norma Jeane who is the fiction, the cultural figment, the ghost of the real invoked as a death sentence." Speaking of which, she also stirs up serious dust in examining Monroe's death. Churchwell claims she's not out to paint a new portrait, but to understand the genesis and purpose of the stories that swarm around Monroe. Turns out she does quite well on both fronts. Pumps a lot of bilge overboard. (13 b&w illustrations)
From the Publisher
"[A] sustained, strenuous critique of the lazy thinking, sloppy research, and overall softheadedness that characterize so much popular biographical writing."—A. O. Scott, The New York Times Book Review

"Smart, graceful, and lucid, this is a veritable Sherman's March through the Marilyn oeuvre, with bodies—Mailer, Oates, Miller—strewn everywhere. Instead of a torch, however, Churchwell wields a rapier, and if she flays the authors, it is to lay bare the anatomy of authorship in all its tangled complexity."—Peter Biskind, author of Down and Dirty Pictures

"Refreshing . . . Her book has torn away layers of false readings and conspiracy theories."—The New York Times

"Humane and skeptical . . . Churchwell has written an extremely useful deconstruction of the piffle that has accreted around her subject over the years . . . offering realistic alternatives to spiraling fantasies."—Richard Schickel, Los Angeles Times

"Ferociously smart . . . offers a rare combination of guilty pleasure and intellectual insight."—Vogue

Sarah Churchwell wades through the conflicting bios of the legend so that you don't have to. . . . She provides a fair accounting of the ink spilled thus far and calls attention to the many veils between Marilyn and her audience."—The Village Voice

"This intelligent and subtle book reminds us that Marilyn Monroe, in our fantasies, was a Snow White we pretended was a Cinderella: the slipper was never going to fit. In telling us the real story of so many wild tales about this mythologized figure, this study shows us that there is truth in lies too, as Hollywood used to insist, if you get enough of them. And if—big if—your mind is as alert and agile as Sarah Churchwell's."—Michael Wood, author of America in the Movies

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466825949
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/27/2005
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 604,206
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Sarah Churchwell

Sarah Churchwell was educated at Vassar and Princeton and is now a professor of American literature and culture at the University of East Anglia. The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe is her first book. She lives in London.

Raised in Illinois, Sarah Churchwell was educated at Vassar and Princeton and is now a professor of American literature and culture at the University of East Anglia.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2006

    Kayla, Big Time Marilyn Fan

    I really don't see why this book was published. The writer's supposed goal for the book is to denounce all of the Marilyn Monroe biographers and show the real 'Marilyn.' Okay, where does the writer accomplish this? It reveals well known facts about Marilyn that others have wrote endlessly about then goes on to say that they are not true. Please keep your money. It was a waste of mine. If you want a good Marilyn book don't get this

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)