Monday, Nov. 12, 2012

Fragments of Marilyn

Writings from the Pen of a Star

By David Luhrssen
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Marilyn Monroe was a Gemini, psychologically as well as astrologically. She took to her ditsy, sexy Hollywood image like a kitten to cream, and yet she took college courses in history and art and was an avid devourer of literature, classic and contemporary.

Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe (published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux) addresses the star’s serious side. Edited by movie producer Stanley Buchtel, described as an “advisor” to the Monroe estate, and screenwriter Bernard Comment, the book’s claim to importance is its selection of personal writings by the actress, which only surfaced recently when a couple of boxes of paperwork from her estate were finally sorted through. Fragments is a good title, as these jottings often have the fragmentary character of pages torn from a diary or first drafts of poems.

Although these miscellaneous writings can probably be analyzed for clues on Monroe’s psyche, they are less interesting than the book’s photographs, which caught her reading James Joyce in a bathing suit, curled up on a comforter with Heinrich Heine and laying on the grass with Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Whether or not those shots were conceived as incongruous cheesecake in light of the image Hollywood imposed, they revealed a truth about her. Monroe aspired to an intellectual depth at odds with her perceived role as a male fantasy pin-up.

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