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Écritures dans les Amériques au féminin

Dante Barrientos-Tecun
Anne Reynes-Delobel

Subjectivité, identité, communauté : écritures du désir, du corps et de la corporéité

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

A Reconstruction of Self Beyond Myth

Barbara Miceli


Cet article porte sur le roman de Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde (2000), qui déjoue la forme traditionnelle de l’écriture biographique en recourant à la technique du « point de vue posthume » pour faire entendre la voix de l’actrice et également celle d’une communauté désignée par le pronom « nous ». Empruntant aux genres des mémoires, du roman historique et du conte de fée, le roman réussit le tour de force de donner voix à la femme derrière le personnage tout en faisant d’elle l’emblème archétypal de l’Amérique.

Texte intégral

1In his essay “Narrative Time,” the French philosopher Paul Ricœur asks “[…] is not repetition a kind of resurrection of the dead?” (Ricœur 1980: 190). The repetition of well-known events and stories seems to characterize the novel Blonde (2000) by Joyce Carol Oates, based on the life of Norma Jeane Baker, a.k.a Marilyn Monroe. Actually, Oates did not mean to resurrect the icon that keeps on living a posthumous life “in the age of mechanical — and now digital — reproduction”, but rather to give a new life to the woman behind — and beyond — the myth. Oates says she “got very interested in writing about an American girl who [was] Norma Jeane Baker” when she saw a picture of seventeen-year-old Norma Jean Baker with her hair longer, curlier, and darker, “smiling in a very girlish and yearning and hopeful way” (Goldstein 2000). Even her nose and jaw had not been surgically modified yet (Leon & Morley 1990: 14). This girl “looked nothing like the iconic Marilyn Monroe” (Oates 2003: 144), and very few people seemed to remember her. So, the writer decided to give her a new life in what was originally planned as a novella ending with the words “Marilyn Monroe” (Goldstein 2000). Eventually, Oates felt compelled to encompass Monroe’s whole life until her death on August 4, 1962, thus expanding the novel to a substantial 939 pages. She indeed felt that the actress was “an emblematic character of her time and place as Emma Bovary was of hers” (145).

  • 1 Leon and Morley, in their biography of the actress, claim that her father was Stanley Gifford, a sa (...)

2Marilyn’s biography describes how she became the perfect embodiment of the American dream: her father cast her off as soon as she was born1, and her mother was committed to a mental hospital when she was a child, so that she lived part of her childhood in an orphanage and the rest of it in foster care (Guiles 1969: 22-23). She married Jim Dougherty at sixteen and started working for the Radioplane Corporation when he joined the army. After a photographer spotted her (Shevey 1987: 66), she launched on a modelling career and soon became the “blonde actress” of worldwide fame. But Monroe’s American dream was darkened by a chronic instability, three unfortunate marriages (and many other failed relationships), and the inability to reconcile her dual identities — Marilyn Monroe and Norma Jeane, wife and actress, girl and artificial construct. She became addicted to drugs (Smith 2003: 4) and her death was probably caused by this addiction. By committing suicide, Monroe killed the “self out of nothingness” (Bay 1995: 101) she created when she started bleaching her hair, dressing provocatively, and conforming to the character of the “dumb blonde” which made her a celebrity.

3The visual icon can be objectified in a few words: blond hair, sensuality, dumbness, joie de vivre. In Oates’s novel, Monroe is this, and much more. What we usually see and remember of her is her character, which for Ricœur is “the set of lasting dispositions by which a person is recognized” (Ricœur 1992: 121). Oates’s aim was to see beyond the golden-haired star; rather than giving a complete picture of the woman behind the icon, she chose to draw a kaleidoscopic portrait of the actress.

4Marilyn’s duplicitous character has been described by a number of critics:

Two heads then; two identities: one for the silver screen, and one for the real world that together with its images and ideas, project forth the luminous, flickering puppet plays of the darkened movie cavern […] “Marilyn Monroe” then, was a mask put on very deliberately (and ironically) by Norma Jeane Baker, who was conscious all her life of being two women, a real one made of flesh and blood, and an electrically generated construct. (Ebert 2010: 57-58)

5Yet, the best definition of Marilyn is probably given by Graham McCann when he claims that “there was never a clear and compact self called ‘Norma Jeane’ that was later dropped into a volatile environment and dissolved like a soluble pill into a thousand ‘Marilyns’” (McCann 1987: 3). In Orlando, Virginia Woolf writes: “a biography is considered complete if it merely accounts for six or seven selves, whereas a person may well have as many as one thousand” (Woolf 1970: 295). Moreover, in his 1973 “novel biography” of the actress, Norman Mailer claimed that “Monroe opens up the whole problem of the biography” (Mailer 2012: 18), meaning that it is impossible to obtain a sheer and definitive truth from the thousand biographies written by acquaintances, friends, journalists, or writers. They all state different truths about who her father was, whether or not she was abused during childhood, how many husbands she had, how many abortions, and so on. Most of all, there are several theories on her death: was it suicide? Murder? Did the Kennedys kill her? Many biographies focus on the investigations, but they do not investigate her character. That is exactly the opposite of what Oates does.

  • 2 In her introductory note, Oates mentions several biographies about the actress: The Life and Death (...)

6Blonde, a novel defined by her author as “a distilled life in the form of fiction” (Blonde: ix), deals with the problem of biography, shaping itself into something that is not a novel biography, or a historical novel, or pure fiction. What Oates produced was a posthumous memoir using all these generic devices so as to construct a complete picture of the woman. My analysis aims to highlight how the author created an original form by mining into existing biographies2. In the following section, I will examine the generic composition of Oates’s book, and underscore the originality and novelty of her strategy.

The genesis and structure of Blonde

7The risk of forgetting Marilyn Monroe’s figure is virtually non-existent: the biographical facts of her life, with all their mysteries and contradictions, are known to everybody, and her films continue to circulate her immortal image as Hollywood legend. In the light of such over-exploitation one may wonder what drove Oates to write a book about Monroe. The answer lies in part in the fact that Marilyn was a “universal figure” (Oates 2003: 148), that of “the Blond Actress.” As Gavin Cologne-Brookes writes, Oates’s “Marilyn Monroe” encompasses other twentieth-century mythical women figures such as Eva Peron, Grace Kelly, or Lady Diana (Cologne-Brookes 2005: 216). However, Oates’s aim was not to write of Marilyn for the early twenty-first century. Rather, it was to give back a voice to that part of the actress which was concealed and ignored, the forgotten part, the “authenticity behind the image” (Oates 2003: 144).

8Oates decided to write Blonde after seeing a picture of Norma Jeane Baker before she became the “blond actress.” The picture, she writes, was that of a “normal” girl who reminded her of the “girls of [her] childhood, some of them from broken homes,” and aroused in her “an immediate sense of recognition” (ibid.). This made her realize that she could give a new life to “this lost, lone girl, whom the iconic consumer product ‘Marilyn Monroe’ would soon overwhelm and obliterate” (ibid.).

9In an interview she gave to Josh Grobel for Playboy in 1993, seven years before Blonde was published, Oates expressed the same kind of interest:

I recently saw The Misfits on video and I was really struck by Marilyn Monroe as a kind of female impersonator. There were real women in that movie and they walked around in regular shoes, and then she would come on the screen completely confectionary, her hair, her manner, her walk, her physical being. It was as if she were a female impersonator in a way that we don’t experience women now – stuffed into a dress, teetering on high heels. (Grobel 1993)

10Oates then decided to remember the woman and not the “female impersonator.” This clearly was going against the grain, for, as one of her biographers has written,” Marilyn is remembered as “the smiling, glitzy, ditzy Marilyn Monroe of the photographers and the magazine covers and the movie posters” and it is only “this Marilyn, split from the bone core of the real Marilyn by means of the camera eye, who will be adored by the future” (Ebert 2010: 65).

11In her attempt to “resurrect the dead,” Oates uses various strategies to recount “the archetypal life of the actress” (Oates 2003: 144), “deconstructed and then reconstructed into a new mythical mode” (De Vito & Tropea 2007: 66). Oates does not take into account the entire biography of Marilyn, but focuses instead on a few incidents with high symbolic value. As she writes in the introductory note to the novel, “synecdoche is the principle of appropriation” (Blonde: ix). For instance, she focuses on only one of the many foster families the actress stayed with, and on only one of her many lovers (some of whom, like Robert Kennedy, are not even mentioned). She does the same with Marilyn’s numerous abortions, films, or suicide attempts. Curiously, she gives great symbolic value to a relationship which probably never existed: the threesome with Charlie “Cass” Chaplin Jr. and Eddy G. Jr. who called themselves “the Gemini” and were the first to exploit and betray Marilyn. Oates’s strategy aims at suggesting “a poetic, spiritual, ‘inner’ truth,” (Oates 2013: 148). Furthermore, Marilyn’s “famous” husbands are not considered as historical but as mythical characters whose names reflect their social statuses (Joe Di Maggio is “The Ex-Athlete,” Arthur Miller “The Playwright,” and John Fitzgerald Kennedy “The Prince” or “the President”).

12The text begins with a prologue dated August 3, 1962, the day before Marilyn’s death. Her life is divided into five sections: The Child 1932-1938, The Girl 1942-1947, The Woman 1949-1953, ‘Marilyn’ 1953-1958, and The Afterlife 1959-1962. While these sections apparently reflect the “canonical” structure traditionally adopted by biographers, they subtly allow for a multiplicity of readings — the names of characters Monroe interpreted on screen (like “Rose 1953” in The Asphalt Jungle, or “Roslyn 1961” in The Misfits) are juxtaposed with the successive “personas” she embodied in her real life (“Little Wife” tells of her first marriage to Jim Dougherty / Bucky Glazer, or “Pinup 1945” refers to her early career as a model).

13Oates uses a wide range of genres, from the traditional third singular person, typical of the biography, to the historical novel, which bursts in the story to recount the events contemporary to the life of the actress, and the fairy tale which proves to be the best genre to describe the mutation, also physical, of the character. All these genres merge to create a “posthumous memoir” allowing Oates to keep at a distance from her narrative and thus ideally recreates “how an individual might feel dreaming back over his or her own life at the very conclusion of that life” and entering an “abstract, communal, ‘posterity’” (Oates 2013: 145). Very much like the “set of interviews that never took place between Marilyn Monroe and Norman Mailer” (Mailer 1985: 280), Blonde is an imaginary memoir based on the act of interpreting (Ricœur 1960: 204). Both writers might have chosen “the ‘Marilyn’ persona” as she “seems especially suited to hybrid works that cross conventional boundaries of genre, compounds of fact, fiction and fantasy” (Churchwell 2004: 83). Oates’s Blonde “explodes lines between biography and memoir, reader and writer” (Juncker 2010: 85) and creates a work made up of various genres, with the purpose of reconstructing the self of the main character.

Reconstructing the self

14The notion of “self”, as Ricœur has defined it, is constituted by the “self” and the “other than self.” This “otherness” is constitutive to the self and its reconstruction into a character (Ricœur 1992: 3). Also according to Ricœur, the notion of “character” “designates a set of lasting dispositions by which a person is recognized.” Among these dispositions, there is not only the behavior of a character, but also what Ricœur calls “acquired identifications”: the set of elements that make a character recognizable (121). There must not be excluded the combination of incidents that constitute the personal biography of the character, because he “draws his or her singularity from the unity of a life […] which is itself singular and distinguished from all others” (143). This brings Ricœur to conclude that “characters […] are themselves plots” (147). Reconstructing Monroe’s self, Oates considers all these elements: she uses the notorious traits that make Monroe a recognizable character and she follows, even if not verbatim, her biography. But the paradox is that using “acquired identifications,” Oates intends to give a new version of the character, only partly similar to the one recounted in her numerous biographies, and partly original. Narrating these incidents is her way to go through them just as Norma Jeane would have done.

15The first element Oates considers is Monroe’s hair color. As McCreadie recalls in her biography, the contrast between her natural light brown and the platinum blond wanted by the studio was necessary to create “a new and more negotiable Norma Jeane” (McCreadie 1973: 60). The adjective “blond” becomes “blonde,” an attribute which came to define Marilyn Monroe from her early career on:

[…] it was not possible for Norma Jeane to hear the repeated query Who’s the blonde? Who’s the blonde? The blonde? Or even to imagine such a phenomenon. (Blonde 317)

16Oates later demystifies Marilyn’s iconic hair color with details connected with the maintenance of it, and most of all with the overlapping of the real identity on the constructed one: as it grows back out, the girl’s natural hair makes the platinum dye look fake and phony:

Her hair had been newly bleached at the roots and hairline that morning and exuded a harsh sickening chemical odor that made the Playwright’s nostrils contract. This odor, the Blond Actress had long since ceased to smell. (Blonde 720)

17The dye becomes the metaphor of a double identity the actress has so grown used to that she does not consider an issue any more. In contrast, the fictional version of Arthur Miller is very aware of it:

[…] her body shaved and the hair of both her head and her pubis recently bleached, hateful purple paste stinging her sensitive skin, so she was looking the part, the platinum-doll Marilyn, the President’s secret mistress. (Blonde 897)

18The fragment is taken from the chapter “The President and the Blond Actress: the Rendezvous,” which narrates the first date between President Kennedy and Monroe when the actress becomes aware of the fact that she is the role she is playing — the “platinum doll”, the secret mistress of the President. The allusion to her pubic hair suggests the misery and squalor of this relationship.

19The character is not only defined by her hair color but also by the name invented by the Studio. The two names represent her dual identities: “Marilyn Monroe the movie star, but she was also Norma Jeane Baker, the orphan child of suburban Los Angeles” (Ebert 2010: 57). Her true name was rejected because it was “not glamorous enough” and the new one is not to the actress’s liking (Weatherby 1976: 5). Oates narrates the choice of the new name in the form of a journal entry:

I was hurt wanting to explain that my mother had named me for Norma Talmadge & Jean Harlow yet of course I could not for Mr. Shinn would silence me with a glare […].

One of Mr. X’s assistants had given him a list of female names & he & Mr. Shinn were conferring

Moira Mona Mignon Marilyn Mavis Miriam Mina

& the last name was to be “Miller” I was upset they didn’t consult me for there I was, now seated between them yet invisible to them almost […] & I did not like the name “Marilyn” […] I tried to explain to them I would like to retain “Norma” at least it was the name I grew up with & would always be my name but they refused to listen

Marilyn Miller Moira Miller Mignon Miller

Wanting the “MMMMM” sound […] I was pleading saying that my grandmother’s name was “Monroe” & Mr. X snapped his fingers as if he’d only just thought it himself & Mr. Shinn & he pronounced in unison as in a movie

Mari-lyn Mon-roe

Savoring the sexy murmurous sound of it! (Blonde 271-273)

20The belief that what the Studio produced is a “dream self” (Baty 1995: 92) pervades the entire novel. For Marilyn, it is “only a career” (Blonde 331), but the characters around her, and the narrator, always remind her that Marilyn Monroe is a character and not a person. Eddy G, for instance, stresses the falseness of her name (432). Her assistant comments on the hate mail she receives as hatred poured “on an imaginary being” (534), “perpetually smiling, yet without warmth or sentiment or that complexity of the spirit called ‘depth’” (541). Nevertheless, this imaginary identity is, as another actress (probably Ava Gardner) predicts in the chapter entitled “Rat Beauty”, what she will be for the rest of her life, and after she dies (810). Oates deconstructs the entire biography of Monroe to make the real woman surface above the myth.

21Monroe’s biographies often report that she was sexually abused by the orphanage staff (Leon & Morley 1990: 3) and by some of her foster fathers (Rosten & Shaw 198: 95). Oates ignores these records but insists on the girl’s conviction that she was not an orphan. F.L. Guiles’ biography, which was consulted by the author (Blonde x), reports that when Norma Jeane was brought to the orphanage, she shouted that there must be a mistake, because her mother was alive, so she was not an orphan (Guiles 1984: 22):

She wasn’t an orphan. She had a mother. (Blonde 87)

22The remainder of Norma Jeane’s childhood is made up of invented memories of her life at the orphanage and at the Pirigs’s, a fictional foster family. Although Oates ignored the sexual abuses, her character displays the disturbed forms of attachment and abnormal patterns of emotional response observed in abused children. These signs and symptoms include

Low self-esteem, impaired identity formation, an inability to feel “grown-up;” depression, trouble finding pleasure in their lives, anxiety, an increased risk of alcohol abuse, dissociation, somatization and suicidal ideation, and in some cases, borderline or narcissistic personality disorders. (Emery & Lloyd 1993: 133)

23Her split identity may have accounted for Monroe’s subsequent difficulties in dissociating real from not real. Low self-esteem was a distinctive trait of her personality: “I want to read a lot and read a lot […] I don’t want to be just dumb and pretty” (Slatzer 1974: 72), she once confessed to a friend, and all her biographers have reported on her desire to compensate for her lack of education by working her way through books (McCreadie 1973: 63; Weatherby 1976: 58; McCann 1987: 45), which owed her many sarcasms:

In Hollywood, it was an open joke Marilyn Monroe thought she was an intellectual, never graduated from high school even and mispronounced every other word she spoke. (Blonde 590)

24In addition, the will to be a serious actress seems to be connected to the identity issue. As Marjorie Rosen writes, “her constant manic drive to prove conclusively she was an actress, not a sexpot [was] a drive for identity which would finally consume her” (Rosen 1973: 288). This quest for recognition is also present in Oates’s novel:

[…] she’d hoped, and Mr. Shinn had supported her in this hope, that one day soon she’d be cast in a serious role and make a true screen debut. Like Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette. Like Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit. Jane Wyman playing a deaf-mute in Johnny Belinda! Norma Jeane was convinced she could play roles like these. ‘If only they’d give me a chance.’ (Blonde 284)

25The writer compares Monroe’s career with those of three colleagues of the time who had been recognized as serious actresses, and not as sexpots. And it is not a fortuitous fact that none of them was a blonde.

26Marilyn’s appearance was considered indeed by many, and probably also by herself, as the cause of her failed “true screen debut.” In the essay A Beautiful Child, Truman Capote recalls Monroe saying: “I’ll never get the right part, anything I really want. My looks are against me. They’re too specific” (Capote 2001: 11). Yet, Oates describes the efforts she made to “look like” the Marilyn character:

  • 3 The reference to the “jinxed mornings” is probably linked to a declaration made by her make-up arti (...)

This morning he’d been laboring for hours and she was only partway MARILYN MONROE in the mirror. On such jinxed mornings3 she could not leave her house, she dared not leave the safety of her bedroom, until MARILYN MONROE was present. She did not require MARILYN MONROE to perfection, but a respectable and recognizable MARILYN MONROE. (Blonde 908)

27Another notorious feature of the actress’s behavior was her need for love and approval: “Emotional security, continuity, a sense of being loved unconditionally for oneself all those turn out to be as important to a child’s development as all but the most basic food and shelter. It was exactly these emotional basics that Norma Jeane lacked” (Steinem 1966: 67). The actress was fully aware that these missing “basics” were the reason why she had chosen such a career in the film industry:

I knew I belonged to the public and to the world — not because I was talented, or even beautiful, but because I had never belonged to anyone else. The public was the only family I had ever dreamed about. I didn’t go into movies to make money. I wanted to become famous so that everyone would like me and I’d be surrounded by love and affection. (qtd in Haspiel 2000: 23)

28Oates conveys this “need to be chosen” (Blonde 195) in several parts of the novel, describing the delicate relationship between Monroe and the public, precisely from the viewpoint of her need for an outer gaze. This gaze can be — and often is — cruel, since it can “laugh at her, jeer at her, reject her, fire her, send her back like a kicked dog into the oblivion from which she’d only just emerged” (252). But the same gaze, says an unidentified voice, “will one day be your sole place of refuge” (412).

  • 4 “Marilyn had never wanted kids. She was scared to death to have them” (Slatzer 1974: 43).

29Actually, another refuge was Monroe’s obsessive attempt to become pregnant and her love for children (Pepitone 1979: 20). I spite of Slatzer’s strong denial4, Oates has her character say “Oh, I love children so! I’m crazy about babies” (Blonde 505). Nevertheless, Slatzer’s statement might explain the number of illegal abortions Monroe had at a time when abortion was judged as “a criminal act unless performed to save the life of the mother […] but in general women needing abortions had to see themselves as criminals” (Keledin 1984: 177). It is impossible to know the exact number of abortions she underwent; according to some biographers they amounted to a dozen (Steinem 1966: 189), while others claim that she had one two weeks before her death, and that the baby’s father was President Kennedy (Hitchens & Riese 1987: 1). Oates chooses to focus on a single abortion, the one Monroe underwent before she started filming Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). The actress was assailed by a sense of guilt which never abated, even after the film turned out to be a success: “For this you kill your baby” (Blonde 544). Oates stages Marilyn’s qualms in a fictional dialogue between herself, her conscience and the killed baby:

Yes but you killed Baby.
She had not! She had not meant to!
Yes you meant to kill Baby. It was your decision.
Not the same baby. Not this baby…
It was me of course. Always it is me. (Blonde 732)

30The issue of pregnancy is connected to the wish for normalcy. Oates has Marilyn’s foster mother Elsie Pirig tell young Norma Jeane: “Once you have a baby you’re a woman forever. That makes you one of them, they can’t deny you” (444). Later in the same chapter, the author has Cass Chaplin and Eddy G voice the same thought:

Both men knew how Norma yearned to be what she believed to be normal. And if a baby didn’t make you normal, what would? (445)

31Monroe’s failures led to depression, alcohol, and drug addiction. The barbiturates, initially prescribed to cure her insomnia, affected her work, and were responsible for premature ageing (Ebert 2010: 61). Oates links Marilyn’s drug addiction to an excess of physical and emotional pressure which sometimes overcame the actress as, for instance, before Gentlemen Prefer Blondes premiered in Hollywood:

Before leaving for the theater, the Blond Actress swallowed one, maybe two, Benzedrines to counteract the effect of the Nembutal. Her heart felt like it was slowing. Oh, what a powerful need she had, she had such a powerful need to curl up on the floor and sleep. (Blonde 528)

32This passage illustrates Oates’s strategy: to unveil the truth behind the glittering surface of triumphant moments. Drugs also affect the character’s sense of self:

Staring at herself in the mirror: Norma Jeane and not ‘Marilyn’. Sallow skin and bloodshot eyes and the beginning of something fatally puffy around her mouth. (707)

33As if in a vicious circle, Monroe’s physical decline and the consequent loss of her beauty triggers an entropic descent toward death by suicide. On one of her that forces her to try to kill herself several times. Again, Oates narrows her focus on a single suicide attempt which took place in England during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). The focalizer is the Playwright, who compares his wife’s attempted suicide to Emma Bovary’s:

Why was he thinking, panicked, of Bovary’s dying? The hideous protracted agony. The protruding tongue, the beautiful pale-skinned woman contorted in death. The black liquid running from Bovary’s mouth when she died. (721)

34Yet, the literary reference only emphasizes the horror of an abject death. Later, the Playwright’s viewpoint will serve to suggest that Marilyn was not fully aware of the danger incurred by the use of sedative drugs:

So she made a joke of the nightmare in England. Slyly and elliptically and without seeming to know, or to allow that she knew, the gravity of what really happened. Her stomach pumped. A lethal amount of drugs in her blood. The British doctor querying him, was his wife consciously suicidal. No, Norma didn’t know. And he had not the heart to tell her, or the courage. (735)

  • 5 See Matthew Smith, for instance.

35The many hypotheses on the actress’s death include an accidental overdose (Leon & Morley 1990: 65). Like other supporters of the homicide theory5, Oates is inclined to consider the conspiracy theory as the most plausible one. She created the character of the Sharpshooter, a CIA employee in charge of killing Monroe on account of her friendship with “subversive” people like Cass Chaplin (401), and of her affair with the President (937). The Sharpshooter enters the bedroom where the actress sleeps “a drugged sleep” (p. 936) and injects a fatal dose of Nembutal “into her heart” (938). Oates uses the Sharpshooter’s voice to voice her personal opinion on Monroe’s “announced death” (Leon & Morley 1990: 101): “The President’s whore was a junkie & alcoholic & such a death would not be unexpected in Hollywood & vicinity” (937).

36With Blonde, Oates produced a highly innovative work which stands out among the very many biographies of Marilyn Monroe. In resurrecting the woman behind the myth she renewed the notion of character, blurred the generic lines between biography, historical novel, fairy tale, and fiction, and invented a new hybrid literary form. By reinterpreting her subject through the process of “acquired identifications” she escaped the danger of a round characterization while restoring the “unity of a life-story” necessary to the telling of a coherently organized narrative and the creation of an upper case Story.

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Woolf, Virginia, 1970 [1928], Orlando: A Biography, London, Penguin Books.


1 Leon and Morley, in their biography of the actress, claim that her father was Stanley Gifford, a salesman who did not want to have anything to do with the daughter of his mistress Gladys Mortenson (Leon & Morley op. cit.: 1).

2 In her introductory note, Oates mentions several biographies about the actress: The Life and Death of Marilyn Monroe by Fred Guiles (1985), Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers (1986), Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress by Carl E. Rollyson (1986), Marilyn Monroe by Graham McCann (1987) and Marilyn by Norman Mailer (1973).

3 The reference to the “jinxed mornings” is probably linked to a declaration made by her make-up artist, Allan “Whitey” Snyder, after Monroe’s death about her thinking that she was a victim of witchcraft (Shevey 1987: 10).

4 “Marilyn had never wanted kids. She was scared to death to have them” (Slatzer 1974: 43).

5 See Matthew Smith, for instance.


Università degli Studi Roma Tre, Doctorante,

Barbara Miceli is a PhD. candidate in the department Lingue e Culture Straniere at the Università degli Studi Roma Tre. Her research focuses on the non-fiction work of Joyce Carol Oates. She recently published “Villain or Victim? Il caso Yates in ‘Dear Husband’ di Joyce Carol Oates” (Altre Modernità, no. 15, 2016). She is also interested in the work of the Irish-American writer J.P. Donleavy and in the poetry of Raymond Carver.

Barbara Miceli prépare une thèse de doctorat au département de langues, littératures et cultures étrangères de l’Università degli Studi Roma Tre. Son travail de recherche porte sur l’œuvre non fictionnelle de Joyce Carol Oates. Elle a publié récemment « Villain or Victim? Il caso Yates in “Dear Husband” di Joyce Carol Oates » (Altre Modernità, no 15, 2016). Elle s’intéresse également à l’œuvre de l’écrivain américano-irlandais J.P. Donleavy et à la poésie de Raymond Carver.

Barbara Miceli prepara una tesis de doctorado en el departamento de lenguas, literaturas y culturas extranjeras de la Università degli Studi Roma Tre. Su trabajo de investigación se centra en la obra de no ficción de Joyce Carol Oates. Recientemente publicó « Villain or Victim?
Il caso Yates in “Dear Husband” di Joyce Carol Oates » (Altre Modernità, no. 15, 2016). Se interesa igualmente en la obra del escritor estadounidense-irlandés J.P. Donleavy y en la poesía de Raymond Carver.

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