These personal recollections are underlined by the author's passionate quest to stand equal with Marilyn Monroe in her famous father's eyes. Virtually adopted into the Strasberg household at age 29, Monroe soon absorbed the special attention of acting coach Lee Strasberg and his self-abnegating wife, Paula. Susan, in her late teens at the outset, was at once fascinated, repelled, and cowed by the power of this unusual relationship which lasted until Monroe's untimely death. Her book, a mixture of autobiography, pop show biz history, and personal catharsis, is touching and disturbing. In this true insider's view, the central players and the ``names'' who touched their lives are not a happy lot. One is heartened, though, when Strasberg comes to positive terms with her experiences in a deeply reflective epilog. For circulating libraries.-- Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, N.J.
Actress Strasberg's second tour of her friendship with Marilyn Monroefirst told in her confessional 1980 autobiography, Bittersweet, which focused on Strasberg's emotional swampsis an even stronger, more mature version of her time spent with the legend. This memoir in no way deepens our grasp of what or who MM was, nor does it match Arthur Miller's magnificent portrait in Timebands. Miller, in fact, gets mauled by Strasberg, who shows him at his most tight-lipped and beleaguered, especially after his cuckolding by Yves Montand and during the filming of The Misfits. What makes Strasberg's Marilyn rewarding might be called the "bodywarmth" of MM's presence on the page. Marilyn comes through as a luminescent older sister and jealous rival for Strasberg's parents' attention. Lee Strasberg was the nation's high guru of acting, to whom Marilyn fled when she could not get out of her dumb-blond roles. Could Lee make her a serious actress? Indeed, Lee could, and certainly gave something to MM's intellectual growth, confidence, and ability to stretch as an actress. Her private rehearsals with Lee in the Strasberg apartment are always offstage here, with young Susan eavesdropping when her mother Paula doesn't have her ear to the door. Marilyn at 29 became a regular houseguest for years (Susan was then 17, though she'd met MM much earlier on the set of There's No Business Like Show Business), and the monolithic Lee had a soft spot for her that melted his usual granite. Susan and MM rolled around her bedroom like sisters, trying out Kama Sutra positions (clothed), and MM lusted for Susan's clothes while Susan yearned to be MM. Much later, a grief- stricken Lee wrote and delivered MM'seulogy. Can we ever get enough of MM? Maybe not. Strasberg allows us once more chance to cuddle up to a shy goddess. But MM fans also shouldn't miss Sam Toperoff's adventurous, literate novel Queen of Desire (1991). (Sixteen pages of photosnot seen.)