Vanessa V. Friedman
April 07, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

What is it with writers and Marilyn Monroe? They can’t leave her alone. There was Norman Mailer, of course, and now Joyce Carol Oates, who offers this fictionalization of Monroe’s life — Blonde, a breathy, stream-of-consciousness monologue told mostly by Monroe herself. In Oates’ view, Monroe transformed her world into a film script, and made the other characters into, well, characters (as opposed to multidimensional people): ”the Ex-Athlete” (Joe DiMaggio); ”the President” (JFK). It’s all a bit cutesy and contrived, and the psychology is particularly banal, as the fatherless Norma refers to every husband as ”Daddy.” Ultimately, the point isn’t subtle: Monroe was one of the best and most underappreciated actresses we’ve ever had, and she was exploited and murdered. Of course, some might say this book is itself exploitation. B-

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