THE MANY LIVES OF MARILYN MONROE

Sarah Bartlett Churchwell, Author . Holt/Metropolitan $26 (371p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7818-3

Rather than add to the canon of morbid Monroe speculation, Times Literary Supplement contributor Churchwell steps back to examine the examiners and ask: why has so much been written about Monroe, and what does this fixation say about our society? She doesn't provide any answers, but focuses instead on the phenomenon—she's fascinated by the investigation itself. Although Churchwell touches briefly on the few factual areas where biographers and conspiracy theorists agree, such as Monroe's marriages and film stats, she chooses to linger on the numerous crux points for commentators. Even something as mundane as how Monroe developed her characteristic hip-swinging strut has been hotly debated: the head of the star's former modeling agency maintains it was because of weak ankles, but an acting coach claims he invented it, and a gossip columnist insists Monroe shaved off part of one high heel so her walk would be uneven. Instead of trying to find the truth, Churchwell ponders why such seemingly minor aspects of Monroe's image draw such fervid attention in a culture already saturated with image, celebrity and sex. Churchwell culls a wealth of information about Monroe, providing insight on our celebrity culture, with a refreshingly detached perspective. 13 b&w photos. Agent, Angela Rose at Granta UK. (Jan. 10)

Reviewed on: 11/15/2004
Release date: 01/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
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