This was one of the first books that I picked up on Marilyn and it is an interesting read. Even better than the text though is the beautiful full-page photos. Some of the best photos of Marilyn ever taken throughout her entire life.

Author Norman Mailer
Publisher Grosset & Dunlap
Cover Type Hardcover
Dimensions 9.5 x 10.75 inches
Publish Date 1973
ISBN 0-448-01029-1
Signed No
Number of Pages 270


Norman Mailer is an acquired taste. Like broccoli, some folks love him while others canít stand him. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. While his ìdaring breakthroughî WWII novel, The Naked and the Dead now reads as a tame imitation of James Jones and paled against the background of nightly TV coverage of Vietnam, many consider it the very best war novel ever written. And although the promise of Advertisements For Myself or The Presidential Papers come up short when measured against the ìnew journalismî of Tom Wolfe, it can not be denied that Mailer was right there on the frontlines trying to report on all the whacked decisions that led this country into the Vietnam morass. As a respected author, Mailer hit his zenith with the publication of The Executionerís Song, a work that many say was a blatant rip-off of territory already claimed by Truman Capote. Still, there is no denying that Mailer is an American original, a forceful and fanciful writer who has tracked ìThe American Dreamî all the way from the doldrums of the Eisenhower years right on through to the current inanity of American politics. And like it or not, I really do feel that a great deal of Marilynís current popularity can be credited to none other than the very man she considered too much of a bore to meet in person.

  Let me back up a little bit. Marilyn Monroe would be the internationally recognized symbol of Hollywood regardless if Norman Mailer had ever been born. But in 1973 when his biography of Monroe was first published, Marilyn Monroe was not the face that stared back from fifty greeting cards on the Hallmark shelves, the figure that appears on everything from key chains to shower curtains, the Queen of the T Shirt she is today. When she died in 1962 it was international news. Her career and life were re-evaluated and grudgingly given the respect she had so yearned for while alive. But she was a favorite movie star, the first of so many sudden deaths in a decade that has come to be known for the tragic ending of promising lives. In 1969 Fred Lawrence Guilesí Norma Jean was released to universal good reviews and there was a resurgence of memory for the woman most had begun to think of as part of an era that had been long erased by the stream of assassinations, war and social upheaval that had overtaken the world. Then in the summer of 1973 Marilyn hit the bookstores and suddenly everywhere you looked that stunning face was smiling right back at you.

 To be truthful, it wasnít Mailerís prose that did the trick but his collaboration with the many class act photographers who had first brought images of Monroe to the public. And in the end, that is what places Marilyn so far above the other biographies that have followed. It has little to do with ìtruthî or the ìfactsî that Mailer presents. It has to do with his book suddenly reminding the public that this woman was absolutely stunning, a part of Americaís more innocent years, a reminder of the laughter and the love that she effortlessly evoked. 270 pages of some of the finest works of such artists as Greene, Arnold, Barris, Beaton, de Dienes, Halsman, Kelly, Kirkland, Shaw, and Stern can do that.

 Marilyn was once given the opportunity to meet Norman Mailer and passed. She considered him a bore, a man who was full of himself and really, she pretty much had him pegged. Mailer is full of himself. He is a bore. ButÖ

 ìSo we think of Marilyn who was every manís love affair with America, Marilyn Monroe who was blonde and beautiful and had a sweet little rinky-dink of a voice and all the cleanliness of the clean American backyards. She was our angel, the sweet angel of sex, the sugar of sex came up from her like a resonance of sound in the clearest grain of a violinÖ She was not the dark contract of those passionate brunette depths that speak of blood, vows taken for life, and the furies of vengeance if you are untrue to the depth of passion, no, Marilyn suggested sex might be difficult and dangerous with others but ice cream with her. If your taste combined with her taste, how nice, how sweet would be that tender dream of flesh to share.î

  Say what? Well, thatís Mailer. Like I say, you either love him or you find yourself scratching your head and wondering just what the hell heís talking about. And like I say, I find myself pretty much in the middle. I enjoy reading Mailer primarily because what is most evident in his Marilyn is that the author, Mailer himself, is absolutely besotted with Monroe, a feeling I admit I share. The guy will go on and on and on some more and really all he is saying is this woman has gotten under his skin and he is slowly going mad. He rambles and shudders and pontificates and after youíve read every word you can sit back and simply nod to yourself, Norman Mailer is whacked.

 Ah, but the aftertaste. Thatís when it hits you just how good Mailer really can be. The words seem like a pretentious jumble as you read him but then the minute you put the book down, all that tangled up nonsense begins to come clear. Like poetry, Mailer weaves words that at first seem an awfully convoluted way of saying something but after you step away you realize that it could not have been worded any better.

 Take him or leave him, Norman Mailer is a man deeply in love. After the publication of Marilyn, he tried putting his point across a second time with Of Women and Their Elegance, his attempt at channeling Monroeís thoughts and presenting them as an autobiography. And when even that second book couldnít rid him of Marilynís ghost, he tried it one more time as a play -- Strawhead, written and directed by Mailer at Marilynís alma mater, the Actors Studio -- starring none other than his own daughter, Kate Mailer. The success Elegance and Strawhead came no where near the still-in-print original, Marilyn. And again, the endurance of Marilyn has more to do with the page after page of incredible photos presented in full page format with full color and quality paper. The book, regardless of your opinions of Mailer himself, is a treasure.

 However, no write up of the book could possibly be worth anything without some mention of the hot water Mailer got himself into when it first hit the book stores. For Mailer, an established author named names. While 1966ís Valley of the Dolls had ìthe Senatorî and Guilesí Norma Jean referred to ìthe gentleman from the East,î Mailer was the first author with a national reputation to say ìKennedy.î Hoopla ensued, let me tell you. Suddenly Eunice Murray was back in the news with her exclusive interview with the Ladies Home Journal. Earl Wilson popped up and said yep, with his L.A. Times front page scoop. From that moment on the names of Kennedy and Monroe would forever be linked and it didnít matter a bit when Mailer later admitted that the only reason heíd included Kennedy in his book was because he needed the money. Seems he had been told the very same thing a guy named Robert Slatzer once had been told -- if you want it to sell maybe youíd best spice it up a bit. Slatzer invented a marriage. Mailer added in a murder. And weíre still talking about these topics to this very day.

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