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Blonde : a novel
2000
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Awards
2000 - National Book Award for Fiction nominee
2001 - Pulitzer Prize for Fiction nominee
Characters
Marilyn Monroe (Female), Actor, Illegitimate, Abused,
Genre
Biographical
Psychological
Fiction
Topics
Dysfunctional families
Lost childhood
Search for love
Fear of abandonment
Hollywood lifestyle
Motion picture industry
Exploitation
Fame
Marriage
Drug addiction
Suicide
Setting
- United States
Time Period
-- 20th century
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Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

Will our fascination with celebrities never cease? Over the past few years, there has been a proliferation of Marilyn Monroe biographies. Oates, at least, is not focused on the celebrity but on the frightened, orphaned Norma Jean, a figure perfectly in keeping with other lonely outsiders who populate her fiction. Writing in short sections that carry over extremely well to audio, she's able to achieve segues that add depth to the life being explored and fabricated. Details, images, thoughts, and feelings abound, so credible we forget such insights could not have been known to any biographer. And as to facts, Oates explains in an illuminating interview (included on tape six) that, as a fiction writer, she's able to simplify, combining "several" abortions into one, merging various characters. True, there is no suspense in this audiobook, narrated by Jayne Atkinson: none of the haunting stream-of-consciousness Oates so masterfully placed into Mary Jo Kopechne's mouth in her novella Black Water, but these tapes have much to offer. Considering the book is 768 pages, even die-hard Oates fans might appreciate this adeptly abridged audio version. Recommended, especially for larger collections.ÄRochelle Ratner, formerly with"Soho Weekly News," New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Dramatic, provocative and unsettlingly suggestive, Blonde is as much a bombshell as its protagonist, the legendary Marilyn Monroe. Writing in highly charged, impressionistic prose, Oates creates a striking and poignant portrait of the mythic star and the society that made and failed her. In a five-part narrative corresponding to the stages of Monroe's life, Oates renders the squalid circumstances of Norma Jeane's upbringing: the damage inflicted by a psychotic mother and the absence of an unknown (and perpetually yearned for) father, and the desolation of four years in an orphanage and betrayal in a foster home. She reviews the young Monroe's rocky road to stardom, involving sexual favors to studio chiefs who thought her sluttish, untalented and stupid, while they reaped millions from her movies; she conveys the essence of Monroe's three marriages and credibly establishes Monroe's insatiable need for security and love. To a remarkable extent, she captures Monroe's breathy voice and vulnerable stutter, and the almost schizoid personality that produced her mercurial behavior. (Emotionally volatile, fey, self-absorbed, and frightened, Monroe could also be tough, outspoken, vulgar--her notorious perfectionism a shield against the ridicule and failure that Oates claims she continually feared.) As Oates demonstrated early in her career in Them, and in many books since, she has an impressive ability to empathize with people in the underclass, and her nuanced portrait of "MM" carries psychological truth. Oates sees Monroe as doomed from the beginning by heredity and fate, and hurried to her death by a combination of cynical Hollywood exploitation, dependence on drugs and flawed choices of lovers and mates: JFK's cruel manipulation and shadowy intervention is the final blow to her fragile ego and her very existence. It is no surprise when, at the end, Oates subscribes to a controversial theory about Monroe's demise. Meanwhile, she draws a sharp-eyed picture of Hollywood during the 1940s and `50s; introduces a cast of movie-town personalities, from actors and agents to producers, directors and studio heads; creates intriguing character sketches of Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller; and conveys a nation's fascination with a cultural icon. The inevitable drawbacks in a book of this sort--deliberate omission of events, imaginative reconstruction of public and other events from Monroe's point of view--are problematical but not crucial. In an author's note, Oates declares that her novel "is not intended as a historic document." Yet she illuminates the source of her subject's long emotional torment as few factual biographies ever do. 100,000 first printing; major ad/promo; Literary Guild alternate; simultaneous Harper Audio; 5-city author tour. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Summary
One ofAmerica's most acclaimed novelists boldly re-imagines one ofAmerica's most enduring icons in Blonde--the National Book Award-nominated bestseller by Joyce Carol Oates. The legend of Marilyn Monroe--aka Norma Jeane Baker--comes provocatively alive in this powerful tale of Hollywoodmyth and heartbreaking reality. Marilyn Monroe lives--reborn to tell her untold history; her story of a star created to shine brightest in theHollywood firmament before her fall to earth. Blonde is a dazzling fictional portrait of the intricate inner life of the idolized and desired movie star as only the inimitable Joyce Carol Oates could paint it.</p>
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