Marilyn, the Reader

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Love the cover of the new issue of Poets and Writers, in which Marilyn Monroe is seen reading Ulysses (and she’s made it all the way to the end, too! “I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”)

It would be easy to make wisecracks about the world’s most famous “dumb blonde” reading one of the world’s most difficult books, but Monroe did strive to educate herself, especially around the time she was married to Arthur Miller. Can’t vouch that she actually did read Ulysses all the way through, though.

I’m not a full member of the Marilyn Monroe cult. I think she’s certainly one of the best examples of a “movie star,” and she is an icon that represents all sorts of things. But I’m troubled about how many young women I’ve come across (including a lot of nude models and the like) who idolize her. The woman came to a very sad end, I would think she should be a cautionary tale, not someone to look up to.

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About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

7 responses »

  1. But I’m troubled about how many young women I’ve come across (including a lot of nude models and the like) who idolize her. The woman came to a very sad end, I would think she should be a cautionary tale, not someone to look up to.

    But it wasn’t just a sad end, though. There was sadness from the start and all the way through. Or, at least, that’s the conventional wisdom on her life. At any rate, I think a lot of young women (especially nude models and the like) recognize this in her and can easily relate.

  2. Alright, I know this is really weird, but…she’s got really strange toes…it’s freakin’ me out…

    Wasn’t she like the original…you know…more well-known for her life outside of movies than anything else…
    There were always tabloid stars, but…I don’t know much about her, but my understanding was that, you know, yeah, okay, Hollywood destroyed her…it’s seems much more sad a story than something like Lindsay Lohan…but I have seen parts of Seven Year Itch, and I may be going out on a limb, but I think Lohan was a good actress…and had it in her to be good…am i way off base here?

  3. Alright, I know this is really weird, but…she’s got really strange toes…it’s freakin’ me out…

    That’s funny, I had a similar reaction when I first saw that picture. I had to count to make sure there were only five toes.

  4. There has been a persistent rumour that Monroe had six toes on one foot, due to a particular photograph where that appears to be the case, but there is enough evidence that she did not.

    I think Monroe was underrated as an actress, her performance in Some Like it Hot was critical to the success of the film.

    Finally, and this probably interests only me, I picked up a copy of the magazine in question and here is the note by the editor, Mary Gannon:

    “I can’t remember when or where I first saw the image of Marilyn Monroe that grace’s this issue’s cover, but I’ve carried it in my memory for a long time now. Monroe was a complicated figure: A woman who survived–and was probably destroyed–by the public persona she’d created (all body, no brains), privately she strove for more. And, by all accounts, she recognized the importanceof reading good books.

    “The photograph was taken in 1955 by Eve Arnold. In Joyce and Popular Culture, R.B. Kershner quotes a letter from Arnold about the day she took the shot: ‘We worked on a beach on Long Island…I asked her what she was reading when I went to pick her up (I was trying to get an idea of how she spent her time). She she kept Ulysses in her car and had been reading it for a long time. She said she loved the sound of it and would read it aloud to herself to try to make sense of it–but she found it hard going. She couldn’t read it consecutively. When we stopped at a local playground to photograph she got out the book and started to read while I loaded the film. So, of course, I photographed her.’

    “Along with a certain irony (blonde bombshell tackles her century’s most baffling book), the photo–everything about it–has a nostalgic appeal. For those, like me, with a fetishistic attachment to books, there’s the well-worn hardback, the title and author’s name rendered elegantly on its cover. The merry-go-round Monroe sits on elicits memories of days filled with unstructured play. And behind her, the grassy clearing under the shade of the trees offers just the right place to get lost in a book.”

  5. This photograph has been PHOTOSHOPPED, The ‘2nd’ Toe on her foot has been added in. Marilyn never had 6 toes at that time in her life.
    Thanks xxx :)

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