Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Blonde, by Joyce Carol Oates, is a fictionalized account of the short, sad, weird life of Marilyn Monroe, that is, Norma Jean Baker.  It was my first novel by JCO, and while at times I thought it brilliant, I was so relieved when I finally finished it. It was a long 700 pages.

There is no doubt that Norma Jean was enormously talented, as well exploited, abused, intimidated, and victimized.  Most of the story was painful to read, and while JCO managed her themes adroitly, I couldn't help feeling that the novelist was just one more person exploiting Norma Jean.

I did spend a lot of time on my iPad looking up images of the various people who played a part in Norma Jean's life--JCO usually used initials or nicknames or labels, such as the Playwright for Arthur Miller, and the Ex-Athlete for Joe DiMaggio, which I found a bit irritating and not a little coy.  I am inspired to watch some of her movies, particularly Some Like It Hot, which I have never seen, Bus Stop, which I caught on a Saturday afternoon matinee when I was about ten and was mesmerized, and The Misfits, which was her last completed movie. But, time, being in chronically short supply, I probably won't!

I definitely had mixed feelings about this book--I admired the writing and the storytelling, but I found it sad and tedious and was happy to close the book and swap it on for something a bit more positive to read.

This is the first book completed in the Big Book Summer Challenge, and another book to check off my TBR Pile Challenge list.


  1. I know what you mean about being glad you'd finished it - I was too. Yes, brilliant in parts but also fragmented and a bit confusing as it switches from one person to another. I found it very moving -both brutal and tender and of course, intensely sad. It made me want to see her films too - I'd watched Some Like it Hot a couple of times before I read Blonde - it's quite funny, if you can put up with Tony Curtis' terrible attempt at a British accent, but I suppose that is funny too. I don't remember much about Bus Stop and haven't seen The Misfits - I'm sure we have it somewhere, maybe I could watch one rainy day.

  2. To this day there is so much interest in the life of Marilyn Monroe. Though never held this fascination, I do appreciate how culturally important she was, Her life was also so tragic.

    It seems book did not work for you. I think that such a story would be inevitably depressing.

  3. JCO is such good writer, but I don't have enough interest in Marilyn Monroe to read a 700 page book. I've enjoyed a few of her novels... much more than her short stories, which are often brutal or depressing... and plan to read Them eventually. I left my paperback copy in FL last winter.

  4. I hadn't even heard of this one but I can only imagine how the writing is because I've read a few JCO short stories. She is definitely brilliant but I'm not sure I could handle her for this long!

  5. I've read JCO short stories as well, but never any of her novels. I can imagine that the lack of names being used would annoy me.

  6. I've read JCO short stories as well, but never any of her novels. I can imagine that the lack of names being used would annoy me.

  7. I'm thinking 700 pages is really, really long for a biography! And the nicknames would grate on me given that we all already know who those people are. But what a fascinating life!

  8. Woohoo! Congratulations on finishing your first Big Book of the summer! At 700 pages, it was a whopper!

    Sounds interesting, though sorry to hear it dragged a bit.

    Thanks for adding your link to the review list for Big Book Summer!


    2016 Big Book Summer Challenge

  9. This book would wear me out. But it's a fascinating topic.