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.
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.
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.
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.
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.