- Hardcover: 528 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (July 17, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1608195317
- ISBN-13: 978-1608195312
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 76 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,088,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox 1st Edition
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“A dazzling portrait of a fragile but remarkably ambitious and determined personality, as spiritual as she was corporeal, as canny as she was careless.” ―Carina Chocano, Elle
“Banner…probe[s] Monroe's fraught relationship to her sexuality with an uncommonly insightful eye. But fans of Hollywood Babylon, take heart: Studious as she is, Banner also rakes the muck like a pedigreed newshound.” ―Jan Stuart, More
“By dint of exhaustive research and uniquely informed analysis, distinguished and trailblazing feminist historian Banner has written a profoundly redefining bombshell biography of artist and icon Marilyn Monroe. Banner is the first to bring a scholar's perspective to bear on the influence of postwar misogyny and sexual hypocrisy on Monroe's life and work as she painstakingly chronicles Monroe's shunting from one foster home to another, her sexual abuse and subsequent stutter, evangelical upbringing, daring foray into modeling, and epic battle for Hollywood success. Intellectual rigor and insight shape Banner's coverage of Monroe's debilitating endometriosis, chronic insomnia, prescription-drug addiction, numerous sexual relationships, reliance on psychoanalysis, and three troubled marriages. Banner breaks new ground with her sensitive disclosure of the star's toxic fear of the exposure of her sexual attraction to women, an utter disgrace for a reigning sex symbol in a harshly homophobic time. And her revelations about the role of the Kennedys and the FBI in Monroe's death are appalling. On the upside, Banner celebrates Monroe's perfectionism, generosity, humanist political views, trickster humor, covert brilliance, daunting "process of self-creation," and immense cultural resonance. A passion for precision and truth fuels Banner's electrifying portrait of an artist caught in a maze of paradoxes and betrayals. Here is Marilyn as we've never seen her before.” ―Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
“This new biography brings the known facts up to date and offers a fresh, modern take on the tragic star's life and choices…. Surely not the last word, but a complete and honest effort and a good starting place.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Banner elegantly and skillfully chronicles Monroe's short life…. [she] paints a portrait of Monroe as a complicated, many-faceted woman.” ―Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Lois Banner is a founder of the field of women's history and cofounder of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, the major academic event in the field. She was the first woman president of the American Studies Association, and in 2006 she won the ASA's Bode-Pearson Prize for Outstanding Contributions to American Studies. She is the author of ten books, including her acclaimed American Beauty and most recently MM -- Personal, which reproduces and discusses items from Marilyn Monroe's personal archive. In addition to her books on Monroe, Banner is a major collector of her artifacts. Banner is a professor of history and gender studies at USC and lives in Southern California.
Top customer reviews
For one, Banner clearly explains that she wrote MARILYN: THE PASSION AND THE PARADOX using a method called "new biography," which is related to "new journalism." Instead of erasing her presence as a biographer and giving the false impression of total objectivity, Banner, as a "new biographer," admits her presence. Interesting that other reviewers found this to be evidence of "ego," though in reality it is evidence of greater candor, for what biographer does not paint his subject's portrait without giving it his or her own distinctive color?
A number of reviewers are "disgusted" to learn of the details of Monroe's life, details that perhaps don't conform to the Cinderella fairy tale her story is quickly becoming. If you want a Cinderella fairy tale, perhaps Banner's bio is not for you, but I found her revelations fascinating and, instead of disgusting me, they made me appreciate Marilyn Monroe's complexity all the more.
Now some reviewers objected strongly to what they believe are Banner's flimsy footnotes, and here I admit I have a few questions. For example, Marilyn's supposed plastic surgery: I'm afraid I would need first-person documentation, because I just don't see solid evidence that the lady had a plate put in her chin, for example. And for another: It was an "open secret" that Lana Turner and Ava Gardner were lesbian lovers? Sounds like a good rumor to me, so how about more documented proof? But aside from what seems to be the occasional repetition of an old and unproven rumor, Banner's book is absolutely chock-full of research of the variety I've never seen in a Monroe biography. For example, she checks and cross-checks the famous story of a "Mr. K" who Marilyn described as having molested her in one of her foster homes, and comes to a startling new theory. Banner also researches the important aspects of Monroe's adult world (her work in Strasberg's Studio, for example) and this gives color to an old story. She also (rather testily) explains that the Southern Californian town in which Monroe spent her early years was not a "slum," as some Monroe biographers have written. (And Banner is absolutely correct, for though it may be a "slum" now, I lived there decades after Monroe when it was a surfer town. Towns change, biographers.)
If you have the attention span, if you realize that all writing is subjective, if you aren't disgusted by sex (in which case I have to ask why you're reading the biography of a sex symbol), if you have an interest in Monroe's multi-faceted personality and fascinating life, by all means read Lois Banner's biography. It brilliantly lifts the lid on the fairy tale, though it doesn't fail to enchant. Brava, Ms. Banner.
On the other hand, the rest of the book lacked the vivid details we find in other biographies, details about the turbulent making of her films, her marriages, and her mental illness and drug use. It felt like a narrative without the anecdotes and quotations we see in other biographies of Monroe.
One small example, the author briefly refers to the car crash the day of Monroe's wedding but doesn't mention that Monroe helped pull the horribly injured woman out of the wreckage, getting blood on her clothes. That sort of detail brings home how traumatic the event was.
If a person wanted to read just one book about Monroe, I couldn't recommend this. But to people interested in Monroe, it has its value.
My only cons are that there were quite a few places where phrases were repeated, and there was a lot of extraneous matter at the end of the book that really had nothing to do with her life, most of it was about other people, and that irritated me. I never blame the authors for things like that though, that is related to editing and it's surprising to me that I could spot repeats where an editor never did, and also that the editor didn't just cut a lot of the extra material because this book didn't need it. Monroe's story, as much as could be learned without having her to interview, was interesting enough, we didn't need everyon else's life story, or in some cases toward the end, any of it. Once Monroe was gone, what was the point in all those details about people who didn't really matter?
If you're really curious about Monroe's life, this is probably the best of all of them. It contained just about everything you'd expect, and a lot you didn't. I think it was worth what I paid for it, and I rarely say that about these high priced e-books.