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Happy birthday, Marilyn Monroe

June 1, 2011 |  9:34 am

Norma Jean Mortenson was born on this day in 1926 right here in Los Angeles; she would endure a difficult childhood and become screen star Marilyn Monroe.

Although she often played blond bimbos, Monroe was quite a reader. There's a photograph of  Monroe reading "Ulysses" by James Joyce in what looks like down time during a playground photo shoot. Of course, since it's Marilyn, she's wearing a bathing suit. Such is the price of pinup-dom.

When she died in 1962, Marilyn Monroe's library included "The Fall" by Albert Camus; a book of lectures by J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atom bomb; stories by Chekhov; Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment"; Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio"; two books by Theodore Dreiser; three books by Bertrand Russell; lots of plays; "Moses and Monotheism" by Sigmund Freud; and "Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert. Those are all part of Marilyn Monroe's library as cataloged by volunteers on the website LibraryThing.

In 2010, Farrar, Straus and Giroux released a book of Monroe's own writings, "Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe." In our review, Richard Schickel noted that the book showed how much Monroe "became a devoted reader of serious literature."

Happy 85th birthday, Marilyn Monroe.


Marilyn Monroe, in her own words

Review: "Fragments" by Marilyn Monroe

Are Marilyn Monroe's musings worthwhile?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Marilyn Monroe, reader, circa 1953. From the book "Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe." Credit:  Alfred Eisenstaedt / Farrar, Straus and Giroux