I read “Blonde” after all the hype surrounding the Netflix movie. Many viewers were apparently upset that the story was not an accurate portrayal of Marilyn Monroe’s life. However, I felt the author, Joyce Carol Oates, made it clear (at least in her book) this was meant to be fiction; it was NOT meant to be a biography. Anyway, regardless of the genre, this book follows Monroe’s life from her first memories with a mentally unstable mother to her last days by herself. Normally I enjoy this genre and stories of Monroe are fascinating to me. However, I have to admit I did not enjoy the book and probably won’t watch the Netflix version. After all, if the adage “the book is better than the movie” holds true and I did not enjoy the book, then it stands to reason I wouldn’t enjoy the movie either. The reason I didn’t like the book is the one-dimensional way Oates portrayed Monroe. Actually, I’ve waited almost a month to write this review, turning over in my mind how to put my dislike into words. This is what I’ve come up with. On the surface, Monroe is a deep character. She wants to be more than people think (a dumb Blonde, hence the title), she writes poetry, and she hones her craft to the point of obsession. But delving deeper, Oates’s Monroe can be summed up in one word: sad. As in, a sad/pathetic creature with severe daddy issues whose overriding goal is to please everyone she meets. The book takes the readers through her three marriages, numerous affairs, threesomes, rape, anal sex, and abortions (even though she says she wants a baby) to prove this point. The whole thing is just one long example of men using and abusing her. And if the readers happen to miss this point, Oates makes sure they are aware of it by the end of the book. It actually gets annoying to me how little she trusts her readers. For example, it’s obvious Monroe has daddy issues; Oates sets this up early in the book. But just in case the reader missed it, Oates makes it more and more obvious as the book goes on. By the time she has Monroe call each of her three husbands “Daddy,” and they in turn call her “Baby,” I was done. The only reason I kept reading this 1200+ page bore was to get to Monroe’s death, but that took two pages and wasn’t worth the rest of the book. All in all, I wouldn’t recommend the book or the subsequent movie. Just not worth the time or effort.
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