A brilliant investigation into the debates surrounding Marilyn Monroe's life and the cultural attitudes that her legend reveals
There are many Marilyns: sex goddess and innocent child, crafty manipulator and dumb blonde, liberated woman and tragic loner. Indeed, the writing and rewriting of this endlessly intriguing icon's life has produced more than six hundred books, from the long procession of "authoritative" biographies to the memoirs and plays by ex-husband Arthur Miller and the works by Norman Mailer and Joyce Carol Oates. But even as the books have multiplied, myth, reality, fact, fiction, and gossip have become only more intertwined; there is still no agreement about such fundamental questions as Marilyn's given name, the identity of her father, whether she was molested as a child, and how and why she died.
The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe reviews the unreliable and unverifiable-but highly significant-stories that have framed the greatest Hollywood legend. All the while, cultural critic Sarah Churchwell reveals us to ourselves: our conflicted views on women, our tormented sexual attitudes, our ambivalence about success, our fascination with self-destruction.
In incisive and passionate prose, Churchwell uncovers the shame, belittlement, and anxiety that we bring to the story of a woman we supposedly adore. In the process, she rescues a Marilyn Monroe who is far more complicated and credible than the one we think we know.