Sunday, October 17, 2010

Marilyn Monroe: Fragments (a book)

Edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment with a foreword by Antonio Tabucchi. (c) 2010 LSS International, Inc. Simultaneously published in October 2010 in sixteen (tbc) countries, country of first publication: France (Seuil, 272 p., traduit de l'anglais par Tiphaine Samoyault).

The Finnish edition: Marilyn Monroe: Välähdyksiä, sirpaleita. Translated by Anuirmeli Sallamo-Lavi and Lotta Toivanen. 270 p. Porvoo: WSOY 2010.

Having read from Le Monde (a full page on 8 Oct 2010, including an appreciation by Juliette Binoche) and Der Spiegel (the cover story on 4 Oct 2010) about Fragments I was amazed to find it in Finnish on Friday 15 Oct at the Academic Bookstore of Helsinki. I read it at once at the Café Aalto and in the tram on my way home.

It consists of mostly original and previously unpublished material by Marilyn Monroe, herself, from 1943 until 1962. That material includes private notes, poems, and letters not meant for publication. They are reproduced in the Finnish edition in three ways: as facsimiles, as transcriptions in English and as Finnish translations. It is a measure of Monroe's stature that this material is published at all. The book has an appearance similar to a volume of modern poetry, a completely appropriate association.

Marilyn loved literature, especially poetry. She loved to meet writers and they loved to meet her. Norman Rosten estimated that Marilyn had the instinct of a poet but not the command over the text. Her remarks are fascinating for the fan, but they are not great literature.

Although the material is new the editors in their foreword slightly exaggerate its meaning. They claim that in the 1950s Marilyn's image had to be flawless. But I believe on the contrary, following Richard Dyer, that Marilyn's star charisma was based from the beginning on the fact that she was able to reconcile huge contradictions. One of them was that she was known as the girl who read Rilke and Joyce on the sets of her dumb blonde vehicles. Even intelligent directors such as Joseph L. Mankiewicz were bluffed. They believed Marilyn actually to be the dumb blonde she played. Those who read her interviews at the time always knew otherwise. She was at her most perceptive in the ones she gave in 1962. These private notes collected from desk drawers provide more evidence of the soulful Marilyn.

Fragments is well edited, the foreword by Antonio Tabucchi is fine, photos of Marilyn reading and meeting writers are emphasized, a nice spread is dedicated to Marilyn's bookshelf, we have her favourite portrait with Cecil Beaton's commentary, Lee Strasberg's eulogy, a biographical spread, and a spread on writers' comments on Marilyn (from Karen Blixen to Dylan Thomas).

Fragments is a very special fan book.

No comments: