by Joyce Carol Oates
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She was an all-American girl who became a legend of unparalleled stature. She inspired the adoration of millions, and her life has beguiled generations of fans and fellow artists. The story of Norma Jeane Baker, better known by her studio name, Marilyn Monroe, has been dissected for more than three decades, but never has it been captured in a narrative as breathtaking and transforming as Blonde. In her most ambitious work to date, Joyce Carol Oates, one of America's most distinguished writers, reimagines the inner, poetic, and spiritual life of Norma Jeane Baker, the child, the woman, the fated celebrity, and tells the story in Norma Jeane's own voice: startling, rich, and shattering. Drawing on biographical and historical sources, Joyce Carol Oates evokes the distinct consciousness of the woman and the unsparing reflection of the myth, writing as she has never written before, ecstatic, completely absorbed, inhabited as if by the spirit of her extraordinary subject. Rich with psychological insight and disturbing irony, this mesmerizing narrative illumines Norma Jeane's lonely childhood, wrenching adolescence, and the creation of Marilyn Monroe. With fresh insights into the heart of a celebrity culture hypnotized by its own myths, Blonde is a sweeping novel about the elusive magic of a woman, the lasting legacy of a star, and the heartbreak behind the creation of the most evocative icon of the 20th century.
a life (and a work) cut short
The ultimate non-blonde on the ultimate blonde. This is one of JCO's masterpieces, and yet...despite the "unabridged" tag, some of the KEY passages were sliced from the audiobook. Hence the three stars. The denouement of Norma Jeane's relationship with "The Playwright," for example--the reason why she flung herself down the stairs? Gone from the audio narrative. The wildfire scene with her mother--also gone. A shame for fans of the printed work, and for those who are meeting Blonde for the first time in the audio format. The reader does a good job, though, and there's an interview with JCO at the end of the book. Despite the shortcomings mentioned above, this is a must-listen.