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Sunday, August 19, 2012

[Books] Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox

Like her art, Marilyn Monroe was rooted in paradox: She was a powerful star and a childlike waif; a joyful, irreverent party girl with a deeply spiritual side; a superb friend and a narcissist; a dumb blonde and an intellectual. No previous biographer has recognized -- much less attempted to analyze -- most of these aspects of her personality. Lois Banner has.

Since Marilyn's death in August of 1962, the appetite for information about her has been insatiable. Biographies of Marilyn abound, and whether these books are sensational or flawed, Marilyn's fans have always come out in bestselling numbers. This time, with Lois Banner's Revelations, the fans won't be disappointed. This is no retread of recycled material. As one of the founders of the field of women's history, Banner will reveal Marilyn Monroe in the way that only a top-notch historian and biographer could.

Like many others I have always been fascinated by the mystique surrounding the woman who would become Marilyn Monroe. I had watched programs on television about her and the life she lived, but Lois Banner's book on the icon is probably one of the best accounts I have personally read.

The book allows you to see her through the many chapters of her life: the good, the bad and the times when it seems as though all was lost. What I never thought of before reading the book is how much the life of Marilyn Monroe mirrors that of so many of us. Here was a woman born into a world with little prospect of anything special happening to her, and she was able to remake herself into someone who was not only desired by many but envied by the world. Think of what she was overcame: the abuse, feelings of worthlessness and insecurities and then fast-forward to what she became. It is truly remarkable.

The glamorous existence came with a price, though, and Banner does a great job of balancing it all. There were many revelations about Marilyn's personal life that I hadn't know before, but the account again paints a more detailed portrait of a tortured soul who really just wanted to be loved.

Some will always see her as the over-the-top sexy siren ahead of her time. Others will see her as a reckless creature destroyed by fame. I believe, though, that many will see possibility in the Marilyn we get to me: A woman who was able to become what she wanted, create the life that she wanted and lived the life that she wanted, in spite of the consequences.

This book might not present the Marilyn you have heard about, but it presents the complexity of the one who lived, loved and lost in the public and will be remembered forever. - caw

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