cover image Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox

Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox

Lois Banner. Bloomsbury, $30 (512p) ISBN 978-1-60819-531-2

Fifty years after her mysterious death, Marilyn Monroe remains an enigma. Drawing on new interviews with friends of Monroe’s who have never talked to other biographers and on newly available archival material about Monroe’s childhood, her marriages, and her death, historian and gender theorist Banner elegantly and skillfully chronicles Monroe’s short life from her transient childhood in foster homes and her early, unhappy marriage to Jim Dougherty to her rise to screen star and sex symbol and her unfortunate early death. Banner paints a portrait of Monroe as a complicated, many-faceted woman who studied mystical texts, read widely and took courses at UCLA, pioneered the sexual revolution and challenged censorship codes, honored the working-class individuals whose adoration had made her a star through their fan mail, and strove for perfection even though she very often spiraled out of control. Like other Monroe biographers, Banner ranges over the best-known facts of Monroe’s life—the affair with Jack Kennedy, her tempestuous relationship with Arthur Miller, Joe DiMaggio’s love for her—but she offers a lengthy discussion of theories about the cause of Monroe’s death. Banner points to Gene Kelly’s recollection, among others, that Monroe was very happy and very excited about her future projects as evidence that perhaps the actress’s death was not suicide. In the end, Monroe’s life was so full of paradox, passion, magic, and mystery that it has made her into a symbol of the American imagination that transcends time and place. Agent: William Clark. (Aug.)