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Are Marilyn Monroe's musings worthwhile?

November 1, 2010 |  5:32 pm

Monroe_fragments The much-photographed, much-filmed Marilyn Monroe has been dead since 1962. So does she have anything new to tell us?

A little bit. "Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes and Letters by Marilyn Monroe" is just what it says it is, according to our reviewer Richard Schickel, yet it reveals something new of the actress, however fleeting.

We all know, of course, how ill-used Monroe was by life — the mentally damaged mother and grandmother, the foster homes, the unhappy marriage at 16, her exploited early professional life as model and small-parts actress, her lifelong attraction to men who were not good for her (a poignant passage in "Fragments" recounts her devastation when she discovers that her third husband, Arthur Miller, was ashamed of his friends' opinion of her).

What we didn't know was what a game girl Monroe was. Her formal education was brief and catch-as-catch-can, but she became a devoted reader of serious literature — everything from Joyce's "Ulysses" to Heinrich Heine's poetry — and had a firm belief in the restorative power of psychoanalysis, though it has never been clear who among her several shrinks were helpful and who were quacks (or whether she could tell the difference). Her largest hope was to take command of her own career, create an image of herself unbeholden to the one that she had, to a degree, co-conspired with the media to create.

Here her fundamental innocence and disorganization undid her.

Read the rest of Schickel's review here. And to really get into Marilyn Monroe's head, there's this list of the books she read. In includes "Winesburg, Ohio" by Sherwood Anderson, "Sister Carrie" by Theodore Dreiser and Gustav Flaubert's "Madame Bovary."

-- Carolyn Kellogg