Women’s Review of Books: Three Biographies About Marilyn Monroe, All By Men

Never mind the three books. What’s important is what reviewer Lois Banner has to say about them, in a really insightful review. Here’s the first paragraph:

Since Marilyn Monroe died nearly fifty years ago at the age of 36, a multitude of studies of her have been published — close to one hundred by my count. The fascination with her is understandable, given the unsolved mysteries of her life and death, her superstar status, and her image, fixed in our minds as eternally youthful and beautiful. Now we have three more biographies: The Genius and the Goddess:  Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Revealed, and The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe. As has long been typical of Monroe biographies, the authors of all three are men, and all are well-known for writing celebrity biographies geared to a popular audience. The tradition of male authorship began with journalist Maurice Zolotow, who published the first Monroe biography, Marilyn Monroe, in 1960, while she was still alive. It was solidified by Norman Mailer’s sensationalized Marilyn, in 1973, which portrayed her as a sex kitten and the lover of Robert Kennedy. The underlying message seems to be that men can best understand Monroe, whose appeal was innocent and erotic, childlike and sexual — the quintessential virgin/whore of the western imagination. There is also the widespread belief that any book about Marilyn Monroe will make money.

The review is a knockout, dear blog readers. Self finds deeply fascinating sentences like this one, about Ted Schwartz, the author of Marilyn Revealed: “Schwartz is often hostile to Monroe, although he praises her ambition.”

Stay tuned.

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