Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

I wasn’t really sure how to go about reviewing this book at first, but then I came up with a solution, and it’s a reviewing style I’ll call The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Here we go.

The Good: Of course, Joyce Carol Oates is a scary-talented author and I bow at her feet. The writing in this book goes from staggeringly beautiful to heart-wrenchingly sad, and all of it is masterfully executed. The fact is, no matter what the following might say, I would probably give my left foot to be able to write like Oates does. So let’s move on.

The Bad: The story, a fictionalized account of Marilyn Monroe’s life, is yet another thrilling installment in this author’s Men Are Evil And Will Hurt You saga. Okay Joyce, I get that Marilyn had issues. I get that men pushed her around. But honestly:

“Then came her fairy godmother to tell her: There’s a secret way into the Walled Garden!

There’s a hidden door in the wall, but you must wait like a good little girl for this door to be opened….You must win over the doorkeeper – an old, ugly, green-skinned gnome. You must make the doorkeeper take notice of you. You must make the doorkeeper desire you. And then he will love you and will do your bidding! Smile! Smile, and be happy! Smile, and take off your clothes! For your Magic Friend in the mirror will help you….the old, ugly green-skinned gnome was really a prince under an evil enchantment, and he will kneel before you and ask for your hand in marriage, and you will live with him happily forever in his Garden kingdom; never will you be a lonely, unhappy little girl again.

So long as you remain with your Prince in the Walled Garden.”

Good lord.

And I haven’t even mentioned how Marilyn calls each of her husbands “Daddy”. You can cut the subtlety with a freaking battle axe here.

The Ugly: Several of Marilyn Monroe’s movies are described in the book, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot. These are two of my favorite movies – or I should say, they used to be. I’m not sure, because I haven’t tried watching them since reading this, but they might be ruined for me.

Can we talk about Some Like It Hot for a minute here? Oates’s book tries to make the case that by this point in Marilyn Monroe’s career everyone was disgusted with her, and her love interest in the movie, “C” (aka Tony Curtis) was so grossed out by her that he hating acting in the romantic scenes with her.

Okay. When Tony Curtis’s autobiography, American Prince: A Memoir, came out, and I read an excerpt in Vanity Fair. He was writing about Marilyn and how they used to date before she was famous (something that isn’t in the book – HA! Joyce Carol Oates, I know something you don’t know!). Anyway, they weren’t going out when they made the movie, but he was still attracted to her. According to Curtis, he totally had a boner for that entire scene in the yacht, and Marilyn knew it.

What’s Oates’s take on the movie? Here you go: “And so C despised her & at their climactic kissing scene how he’d wish to spit into Sugar Kane’s phony ingenue face for by this time the mere touch of Monroe’s leathery skin revulsed him & C would be Monroe’s enemy for life & after her death what tales C would tell of her!”

I really, really hope that Tony Curtis reads Blonde. And I hope he sends Joyce Carol Oates a letter that goes like this:
“Dear Ms. Oates : What gives you the right to write down Marilyn’s life for her and assign roles to each of us so we could all look like evil bastards compared to her? You didn’t know her, you didn’t know any of us, and you’re no better than all the tabloids, exploiting her fame and her death to make money.
Fuck you very much,
Madeline Tony Curtis.”

I must say, the man has a point.

Verdict: two of out five stars


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