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Joyce Carol Oates is an American writer who published her first book in 1963, and has since published 58 novels, a number of plays and novellas, and many short stories, poetry, and non-fiction – so we can say she is qualified to tackle the mystical, controversial, iconic figure that was Marilyn Monroe.

Oates insists that the novel Blonde is a work of fiction that should not be regarded as a biography, yet there are too many likenesses to the actor’s life not to take this with a pinch of salt.

Blonde was a finalist for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize (2001) and many influential sources have listed it as one of Joyce Carol Oates’ best books.

Oates herself regards Blonde as one of the two books (along with Them) she will be remembered for.

At more than 700 pages, Blonde is one of Oates’ longest works of fiction; even then some sections were shortened while others had to be surgically removed from the book.

Although many notable names are changed, Oates sometimes uses recognisable initials such as TC (presumably Tony Curtis) and controversially RFK (the supposed commander of the sharpshooter sent to eliminate Monroe.

This is suggested to be Robert F Kennedy, brother of the then president, with inferences that he was involved in Monroe’s death following her alleged affairs with each of the brothers, but ironically the novel explores only a relationship with the president.

Why did Joyce Carol Oates write about Marilyn Monroe?

Was it to give a voice to the woman who had become nothing more than a famous face?

Oates grew to understand her subject and to respect the woman who became Marilyn Monroe, knowing that she had no agency in the world; she was the perpetual victim

Marilyn Monroe was among the most legendary actresses the world has ever seen and was also the sex symbol of the industry in the 1950s and early 1960s.

She was known for her bold and stereotype-breaking personality and involvement in the era’s sexual revolution, being an emblem of the same.

As well as the being an enormous conspiracy theory topic, she was a cultural icon.

We are obsessed with her, often wondering how did she walk like that?

How did she do her make-up?

Marilyn was born in 1926, and lived with foster families from babyhood.

The late actor’s mother was not working and did not take care of her well, which is why she was taken away from her.

However, Marilyn did eventually regain contact with her mother.

Marilyn Monroe described her childhood as being that of a mini Cinderella.

The actor revealed what it was like to live with foster families; even though she was very little, she used to clean floors and do the laundry and dishes for the families.

Throughout her life, Marilyn did not go by rules but rather made her own.

Her journey has inspired actresses for generations, and while a simple thing like a pair of jeans was known to be comfort apparel for men, Marilyn Monroe inspired women to opt for them as casual wear.

In February 1954, Marilyn was on a trip to Japan with her then-husband Joe DiMaggio when she impulsively and without prior permission took a detour to Korea.

She entertained the troops by performing 10 shows in the course of four days, with 100,000 soldiers and marines attending

More importantly, while mental health was not widely discussed in the 1950s (we know that she was manic-depressive, which is now called bipolar), Marilyn Monroe did not shy away from talking about her struggles.

She spoke up about it on various occasions and worked hard to overcome her mental illness, excessively seeing a psychiatrist five times a week.

Things you may not know that Oates explores:

  1. Marilyn Monroe was inspiration for the Mattel doll Barbie – the company felt that she captured the essence of their doll.
  2. Monroe’s signature breathy speaking voice was actually a tactic the actress used to overcome a childhood stutter.
  3. Marilyn was supposed to play Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
  4. The nude dress she wore to sing Happy Birthday in 1962 was so tight she had to be sewn into the dress.
  5. Fans and stars alike were drawn to her with auctions of her dresses raising more than $3M.
  6. Marilyn appeared in the very first edition of Playboy.
  7. After a three-year investigation, Pulitzer Prize finalist Anthony Summers introduced a new timeline of events on the fateful night the actress died, with ambulance company owner Walter Schaefer stating that Monroe was alive when the ambulance arrived but died in transit.

Joyce Carol Oates herself is an enigma at 85 years of age; she is called the unruly genius and shows in this novel she is the perfect person to talk about Marilyn Monroe