Of Women and Their Elegance

Beautiful book that has some photos of Marilyn by Milton Greene but the book itself is not solely about Marilyn.

Author Norman Mailer and Milton Greene
Publisher Simon and Schuster
Cover Type Hardcover
Dimensions 8.5 x 11 inches
Publish Date 1980
ISBN 0-671-24020-X
Signed No
Number of Pages 288


Is it a “Marilyn” book? Yes. And no. Is it chock full of fantastic prints by Milton Greene? You betcha. And that in itself should be enough reason for any Marilyn fan to try and find a copy. At this point we know so much about Milton’s work with Marilyn, his preeminence as a Marilyn photographer, about their business relationship, their friendship, their love for one another-- but how much do we really know about Greene’s work that did not involve Marilyn? You can go to Milton’s Archives and spend hours clicking through his images both of and without Marilyn but there is nothing like holding a coffee table size book of his work right in your hands and calmly leafing through it to remind yourself just how good this guy was.

 In addition to some of the best photos ever taken of Monroe, the book is filled with other major players of the day-- everyone from Marlene Dietrich to Anna Magnani, from Garland to Sophia Loren and Jane Fonda. But of course, the main focus is on Marilyn and even if you’ve seen the images before, what a wonderful treasure to see so many here that had not appeared in Mailer’s “Marilyn”.

 Seven years after his ground-breaking “Marilyn”, Mailer pressed forward this sequel. Say what you will about the man, (squeezing the last dollar out of a woman he never met or refreshing the public’s mind on just what we lost in August of ‘62), Mailer’s writing is something you either love or flat out hate. Still, it’s a pleasure to see someone of Mailer’s stature take on the life of Monroe and whatever you feel about him, you have to admit that he was hit but hard when it came to the power of Monroe. He reaches far and even if he doesn’t always hit the mark, there’s Milton’s work to make up for it.

 The work should not be taken as the literal truth however. The authors make that point right off the bat-- “This book, while based on episodes in Marilyn Monroe’s life, and on the reminiscences of Amy and Milton Greene, does not pretend that these are the actual thoughts of Miss Monroe…” and “This magnificent and stunning new book is at once a fictional autobiography and a work of art.” Emphasis on fictional. Mailer uses the premise of getting inside Marilyn’s head and coming to an understanding of her by writing as if he were her-- thus the fictional autobiography. Does he succeed? Not in my opinion but again, by this point in his life, Mailer had become nearly a man possessed-- he may never have met her and may not have a clue as to what she was thinking, but he tries. And how can anyone condemn a man for doing basically the same thing all of us do-- try and get a feel of what she was “really” like.

 By the end of the book the reader can only come to the conclusion that Monroe is as elusive as ever and Mailer does not come close to what Marilyn may or may not have thought. In fact, whenever I read anything by Mailer, be it “Marilyn”, “The Executioner’s Song”, “The Naked and the Dead” or “Of Women and Their Elegance”, I wonder if he ever heard that Marilyn had no desire to meet him as she felt he was overblown and pretentious? Both adjectives do apply to Mailer but then the same can be said for nearly every bigger than life legend-- be it a writer or an actress. Had they ever met I’m sure Marilyn’s initial opinion of the man would not have changed. But then I doubt if his of her would have been altered in the slightest. Mailer’s a man whose got it bad and in this case, that’s good.

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