Sunday 23 April 2017

Revealing the private lives of Ms Monroe

We all know Eve Arnold's famous 1954 photograph of Marilyn Monroe (below), seated in a striped bathing suit on a playground carousel and engrossed in James Joyce's most famous novel. Indeed, it adorns a number of book covers, most recently Declan Kiberd's Ulysses and Us, in which the Dublin academic seeks to persuade us of the novel's accessibility to the common reader.

That Monroe should be so absorbed in a literary work will only surprise those who still choose to see her as a dumb blonde.

She was nothing of the sort, as Arthur Miller, who married her in 1956, well knew -- and as the general public will know when Fragments, a selection of her private writings, is published next month.

The book's editor, Bernard Comment, says of this pot pourri of diary entries, poems and other musings that it reveals a more reflective and inquiring mind than popular image would suggest and that, aside from Joyce, poet Walt Whitman "fascinated" Monroe, as did such diverse writers as George Bernard Shaw, DH Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Samuel Beckett.

Fragments, according to its editor, will also feature her thoughts on marriage to Miller and on otherof her relationships. Sadly it's these rather than her love of literature that will undoubtedly grab the headlines.

*****

Meanwhile, Booker-nominated Emma Donoghue's hero, as she told the Guardian last weekend, has more to do with sexual politics than with literature. She nominated 19th-Century landowner and diarist Anne Lister, who, although a "stern snob" towards her tenants, was courageous in her sexual preferences, declaring: "I love and only love the fairer sex -- my heart revolts from any love but theirs."

Applauding the fact that Lister "faced the truth of her swaggering sapphism head on" (though actually in coded diary passages), Donoghue summed up: "Not a saint, then, but a woman who seized her freedoms rather than waiting for anyone to grant them to her."

Irish Independent

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