MARILYN: The Passion and the Paradox by Lois Banner was published on July 17th by Bloomsbury USA and Bloomsbury UK simultaneously, and the agency learned this morning that no book has been reviewed more in the UK over the past week. The definitive biography was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review yesterday by Zoe Slutsky, who writes: “Banner presents a rich and often imaginative narrative of Marilyn’s life. By the end, Monroe feels at once like an earthly being – an almost-friend – and an enigma, still slightly out of focus and just beyond reach. That seems right.”
…this is the book to read if you want to try to understand what made Monroe tick. Where [Keith] Badman’s book took five years to produce, Banner’s took 10; and, although their background readings seem to overlap in places, Banner keeps asking questions and weighing evidence long after Badman has settled for his eureka revelations. Banner’s methodical approach and refusal to give Monroe praise when the actress doesn’t deserve it confer a kind of dignity on the subject that Badman’s book doesn’t.
In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Britt Peterson writes that Banner: “highlights Monroe’s radical leftist leanings, her racial sensitivities, her interest in psychoanalysis, and other ways in which she prefigured various social and political movements of the 1960s. She doesn’t gloss over the uglier aspects of Monroe’s character, delving into her possible sex addiction, but works to present a full woman— exactly what Steinem purportedly set out to do nearly 30 years ago, with such half-baked and sentimental results. Banner’s version is more complete, more sensitive, more entrenched in archival data than any before…”
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.
Banner elegantly and skillfully chronicles Monroe’s short life…. [she] paints a portrait of Monroe as a complicated, many-faceted woman.
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
[A] richly researched biography…. The most titillating sections of this refreshingly frank book describe Monroe’s years as a party girl…. The Monroe we meet in this sympathetic, feminist biography is a self-nurturing narcissus who blossomed in front of the camera. Monroe was cut down before she could germinate, but in these pages she comes alive.
—Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch