The Passion and the Paradox
By Lois Banner
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, Paperback, 9781608197675, 515pp.
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
List Price: $18.00*
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Like her art, Marilyn Monroe was rooted in paradox: She was a powerful star and a childlike waif; a joyful, irreverent party girl with a deeply spiritual side; a superb friend and a narcissist; a dumb blonde and an intellectual. No previous biographer has recognized--much less attempted to analyze--most of these aspects of her personality. Lois Banner has. With new details about Marilyn's childhood foster homes, her sexual abuse, her multiple marriages, her affairs, and her untimely death at the age of thirty-six, "Marilyn "is, at last, the nuanced biography Monroe fans have been waiting for.
"A dazzling portrait of a fragile but remarkably ambitious and determined personality, as spiritual as she was corporeal, as canny as she was careless."—Carina Chocano, Elle"Banner…probe[s] Monroe’s fraught relationship to her sexuality with an uncommonly insightful eye. But fans of Hollywood Babylon, take heart: Studious as she is, Banner also rakes the muck like a pedigreed newshound."—Jan Stuart, More "By dint of exhaustive research and uniquely informed analysis, distinguished and trailblazing feminist historian Banner has written a profoundly redefining bombshell biography of artist and icon Marilyn Monroe. Banner is the first to bring a scholar’s perspective to bear on the influence of postwar misogyny and sexual hypocrisy on Monroe’s life and work as she painstakingly chronicles Monroe’s shunting from one foster home to another, her sexual abuse and subsequent stutter, evangelical upbringing, daring foray into modeling, and epic battle for Hollywood success. Intellectual rigor and insight shape Banner’s coverage of Monroe’s debilitating endometriosis, chronic insomnia, prescription-drug addiction, numerous sexual relationships, reliance on psychoanalysis, and three troubled marriages. Banner breaks new ground with her sensitive disclosure of the star’s toxic fear of the exposure of her sexual attraction to women, an utter disgrace for a reigning sex symbol in a harshly homophobic time. And her revelations about the role of the Kennedys and the FBI in Monroe’s death are appalling. On the upside, Banner celebrates Monroe’s perfectionism, generosity, humanist political views, trickster humor, covert brilliance, daunting "process of self-creation," and immense cultural resonance. A passion for precision and truth fuels Banner’s electrifying portrait of an artist caught in a maze of paradoxes and betrayals. Here is Marilyn as we’ve never seen her before."—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review) "This new biography brings the known facts up to date and offers a fresh, modern take on the tragic star’s life and choices…. Surely not the last word, but a complete and honest effort and a good starting place."—Kirkus Reviews
"Banner elegantly and skillfully chronicles Monroe’s short life…. [she] paints a portrait of Monroe as a complicated, many-faceted woman."—Publishers Weekly