cover image Blonde


Joyce Carol Oates. HarperAudio, $29.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-694-52312-2

Atkinson narrates Oates's fictional biography of Marilyn Monroe in an intense, slightly husky voice that immediately grabs and holds the listener's attention. Film actress Atkinson deftly switches back and forth between Oates's prose, a breathy Monroe (who ""comments"" periodically throughout the novel), Monroe's brassy mother, Gladys (who soon succumbs to mental illness), and a series of powerful, impatient men who callously exploit the vulnerable young actress. Her only false note is the dialogue of John F. Kennedy, which she reads without any attempt at the president's distinctive Massachusetts accent. Abridging Oates's epic is no small feat, but all the major events in Monroe's life remain in vivid and often heartbreaking detail. The audio also includes an exclusive interview with Oates, who talks about her impressions of Monroe as a person and as an icon, and discusses how she came to write the 700-plus- page novel, which she originally intended as a 175-page novella. Based on the HarperCollins/ Ecco hardcover (Forecasts, Feb. 14). (Apr.)