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Marilyn: The Passion and Paradox

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  466 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
Like her art, Marilyn Monroe was rooted in paradox: She was a powerful star and a childlike waif; a joyful, irreverent party girl with a deeply spiritual side; a superb friend and a narcissist; a dumb blonde and an intellectual. No previous biographer has recognized -- much less attempted to analyze -- most of these aspects of her personality. Lois Banner has.
Since Marilyn
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published July 17th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2012)
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Carl Rollyson
Jun 14, 2012 Carl Rollyson rated it it was amazing
Even if you have Marilyn Monroe fatigue, you should read Lois Banner's book. She had access to new primary sources--much of it in a filing cabinet that only recently became accessible to biographers. Banner generously mentions that she drew on my research, especially concerning Monroe's study of acting. You will also learn a good deal about the impact of Christian Science on the young Marilyn Monroe. In many ways, this was a woman ahead of her time even as most people thought of her as simply an ...more
Katherine Stewart
Sep 03, 2012 Katherine Stewart rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminist
When I was 14 years old, I bought a book about Marilyn, written by a person I had yet to hear of, Gloria Steinem. It was filled with beautiful, yet painful, images of a woman who I was captivated by. The images were taken in the final months of Monroe's life and, ever since then, I have always had an interest in Marilyn -- especially the inner conflicts of a woman who appeared to have it all, yet suffered from deep anxiety, depression, self doubt, gynecological problems and relational issues.

Sandra Heitzman
Jul 30, 2012 Sandra Heitzman rated it did not like it
How is it possible to write a boring book about Marilyn Monroe? This book was tedious.
Anna (Yoda Is My Spirit Animal)
Marilyn Monroe is still on of the most recognized sex symbols to come out of America's history and make her way into the world conciousness. This book is an attempt to analyze the different aspects of Marilyn's personality: her troubled childhood, the dueling longings for a successful career and a family of her own, the partying contrasted with the religion, the dumb blonde versus the very smart girl. The author, Lois Banner, takes a feminist approach and treats the material like a slice of wome ...more
Wendy Hines
Jul 08, 2013 Wendy Hines rated it liked it
I've never read anything about Marilyn Monroe. Sure, I've seen some old movies with her in it and I've heard about a conspiracy theory surrounding her death. But beyond that, I was pretty clueless until I immersed myself in Banner's Marilyn. It took me a while to really get a connection to this book. It was really dry reading, with alot of time spent with Banner explaining why her research of Marilyn was correct and why everyone's before her was not.

But getting past that, she did offer some fres
Clare Nina
Jan 12, 2013 Clare Nina rated it liked it
An absorbing look at the contradiction that was Initials MM that contained much information that was new to me. It was also great to read a perspective not preoccupied with that tired trope in which MM is depicted as a victim of Hollywoodland and menfolk. Instead, the book centres more on her psychological make-up and the author's feminist readings of MM as an icon. My only criticism is that there is a degree of repetition (quotes, general information, anecdotes) which I found a little distracti ...more
Aug 30, 2012 Sharon rated it did not like it
Way too long....repetitive throughout the book and boring. In fact, in many places, I would say to myself, "hey wait a minute, did I lose my page?" I just read about this incident or person and the author had moved on...only to return to that person/incident to go into more detail. ehh:(

Back in the 1970's, I remember reading a book about Marilyn, and really enjoyed the read. I wish I could remember which book it was...not that I would want to read the same book again.

Sometimes, I feel as though
Apr 16, 2015 Tara rated it liked it
Shelves: re-reading, reviewing
This is an ambitious, scholarly study of Marilyn Monroe, looking both at the narrative of her life and her place in history. While I don't agree with every part of it, I found Banner's perspective to be brilliant at times. She gives the reader a sense of why Monroe is so hard to pin down as a character, and how she seems to embody so many contradictions. This is a thoughtful, provocative read, analysing MM as an American icon. But if you're looking for a more straightforward biography, this may ...more
Jul 13, 2012 Satia rated it did not like it
If there were a way for me to give this book negative stars, I would do so. And do so quite happily. This book is vulgar and exploitative. It is speculative, sensationalist, and salacious. It is not an academic let alone a feminist look at Monroe's life. An offensive read from cover to cover. For more:

Never fear. This book will be put to good use. Normally I give books to friends, family, or the local library. This one will be used for starting fires in ou
Aug 16, 2012 Susan rated it liked it
Written by a feminist, this book was an interesting account of Marilyn's life. Some of the writing was a little, I don't know, familiar? Like the author would refer to a place she lived, like Hawthorne, and she wrote that it was described as a slum but " I lived there and I know it wasn't like that." I don't know, to me that seemed odd. It was very heavily annotated and I would love to see some of the primary sources used to research this book, like the things Marilyn wrote.
Aug 30, 2012 Lizzi rated it really liked it
Banner is determined to get to the truth of events, and mostly succeeds. Her ambition with this book is really admirable and she does her best to understand and explain why Marilyn was the way she was. Feminist thoughts very interesting too, worth discussing at length. Full review here:
Jul 27, 2014 Christiana rated it liked it
Promoted as a feminist biography of Marilyn Monroe, this book has so much promise. Once Banner stops trying to convince the reader to read her book--which she does constantly throughout the introduction and first couple chapters (I'm exaggerating, but it reads like: people who have never been interviewed before! Was Marilyn a lesbian? Only I know the truth!, etc.) --it becomes a fascinating insight into a tragic, misunderstood actress and celebrated cultural figure.

Marilyn comes off as smart--sh
Dec 15, 2012 Natalie rated it it was amazing
This book is so popular that I had to wait several weeks to get it from the library. It is the most recent semi-academic book about Marilyn and Banner is a specialist on her and her politics. Yes, Marilyn as both a woman and an icon was/is terribly political. The book follows the typical biography outline, beginning with Marilyn's grandparents. Slowly, the early years of her development unfold and we learn about the tragic events of her childhood (including her abandonment by her mother and mole ...more
Aug 29, 2012 Allison rated it really liked it
If you are looking for a gushy, glitzy tell-all recounting the splendor of Marilyn Monroe's Hollywood existence, this is not the book for you. Rather, it's a moving study of Marilyn's conflicted personality and the effects of her trauma and mental illness. Banner, a Monroe "scholar" of sorts, examines the oft overlooked contradictions separating the woman herself from her movie star persona, and susses out her true character, a figure that seemed to hover somewhere between "Norma Jeanne" and "Ma ...more
Dec 19, 2012 Jen rated it really liked it
Marilyn Monroe is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me so it follows that I've read everything about her, watched all of her films, etc. I really liked parts of this book such as her raise to stardom, her marriages, her addictions, her mental illness- all of which are examined outside of the male glance. It's so nice to see MM as a woman in today's definition of womanhood. She slept her way to the top? Lot's of actresses do that! She was bipolar/schizophrenic/depressed/unknown mental illness? Lot's ...more
Jun 30, 2012 John rated it it was amazing
Fifty years after her death, Marilyn Monroe remains one of Hollywood's most beloved figures. Born as Norma Jean Mortenson, she grew up in several foster homes, became a model during World War II, and made her mark in movies. But America's biggest sex symbol had a dark side. Her personal relationships were tumultuous, her rise to stardom was costly, and her emotional weakness and physical ailments would plague her to the end.

None of this is very new. After all there are literally dozens and dozen
Adam Tschorn
This is the second book on Monroe penned by the USC professor of history and gender studies, and one that she spent a decade researching. It's a dense, detail-packed book, so much so that in recounting Monroe's early years and the people in her life as she was shuttled from home to home, it's easy to lose track of all the players and places.

But Banner's throughline isn't hard to follow: The woman who started life as Norma Jeane Mortenson worked hard at creating and then meticulously honed to per
Elan Elizabeth
May 04, 2013 Elan Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Marilyn is the love of my life, and this is the best birthday gift I could have gotten. After reading this book, i feel like i know so much more about her then i had learned from any other biographies on her. I love the research put into this book, and the amount of material it covers. It really does explain her in a way that seems more real. She really just needed some one to love her for who she was. Unlike other Marilyn biographies, I find she is looked at more as a person, rather then a just ...more
Feb 19, 2013 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This detailed and complex bio was of great interest to me. I was impressed with the sources who actually knew the great MM and had proof of her communications with them. This appears to be an honest account of a troubled star who fought her insecurities all her life. She had many sides to her, which could be true of all of us, and the public only some some of those personalities. The author made the point that if MM had lived longer or been born later, she would perhaps not have suffered as a pa ...more
Randy Briggs
Sep 10, 2012 Randy Briggs rated it did not like it
I couldn't finish this book. The author is very self-congratulatory, pointing out how much more significant HER findings are than any other biographer. She also inserts herself into the narrative, which is not necessary in this genre. She indulges in baseless speculation, often presenting it as fact.
Dec 21, 2013 Patricia rated it liked it
I have not read a lot about Marilyn prior to this book. Found the facts interesting and her life fascinating on many different levels however, this book was very long and tended to skip around quite a bit. The author had a lot to say yet this book didn't flow the way it should.
Nov 04, 2012 Shirley rated it it was ok
Oddly written in an academic way.
Aug 19, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing
The first time I picked up a Marilyn Monroe biography, I was nine years old. It was Maurice Zolotow’s Marilyn, written while she was alive. An afterword mentioned it was unsure if her death was suicide or accidental. We had few cable channels at that time (1981), and the movies I saw tended to be older. I was familiar with Marilyn, but now I was hooked. Beauty and tragic death appealed to my pre-teen self.

Even when I got over my teen angst for tragedy, I still liked Marilyn. The number of her mo
Jul 21, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: four-star
Hundreds of books have been written about Marilyn, some of which are insightful - others which are tasteless and insulting towards Monroe. This interesting, provocative biography focuses on Monroe from a feminist and socialist perspective; 'a new take' on the actresses life. It begins typical of many other biographies covering Monroe, charting her family history back to the 19th century and what little information there is available on her maternal grandmothers side. Records from this time are s ...more
I had been looking forward to reading this biography for a while, largely because I'm generally distrustful of many of the older biographies (given the benefit of hindsight), particularly those written by men. A book about Marilyn by a female gender studies professor? Sign me up! It was exactly what I had been looking for, as I've felt that there has been a rather prominent lack of attention paid to the essential gender issues surrounding Marilyn's life and death. Unfortunately, this book failed ...more
Sep 30, 2015 Mary rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Marilyn Monroe
I have read many books on Marilyn Monroe throughout the years and I do not claim to be a MM expert but would say I have retained quite a bit of information on the subject of Marilyn. I do not always believe everything I've read, especially the many "conspiracy theories" of her death and the differing timelines of her last days but I must say that of ALL the books I have consumed on the subject of Monroe, I found MARILYN:THE PASSION AND THE PARADOX to be the most informative and appears to have b ...more
Jul 08, 2012 Catherine rated it liked it
August 5 will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe and 50 years later the attention on both her life and death is still strong. In Marilyn: The Passion & the Paradox, Lois Banner goes beyond the plethora of material already published about this glamorous American icon. While it might be hard to believe that there is anything left unknown, Banner’s research includes numerous newly discovered and previously unused resources. She also goes to more ancillary sources such as c ...more
Victoria Johnston
I am a huge fan of Marilyn Monroe and saw this book on offer in Waterstones. I have read many many books on Marilyn, some good and some bad.

I note some of the reviews on here criticising the book but have to say I found it an enjoyable read. The writer is not so much presenting fact per say but uses the known facts about Marilyn to support her theories.

Far from showing Marilyn to be a victim of Hollywood the writer shows her to be the engineer of her own success. I much prefer this view of Mar
Nov 17, 2012 Literary rated it really liked it
Mandy's Review:

Like many people, I have an interest in Marilyn Monroe. Lois Banner's version of Marilyn Monroe's biography has gone into more depth than any other Marilyn biography that I'm aware of. She has taken the time to join the Los Angeles Marilyn fan club where members shared their collections. She then interviewed Marilyn friends and associates. Researching American and European archives, she was allowed access to never-before-seen collections. She bought many Marilyn items on eBay and
Amanda Nuñez
Apr 15, 2014 Amanda Nuñez rated it it was amazing
While I haven't read any other Marilyn Monroe biographies, I have seen quite a few documentaries on the overall scope of her life (including her Biography on the A&E network) as well as the various conspiracies surrounding her death. I thought I already knew quite a bit about her life and her cinematic impact; this book blew any preconceptions I had right out of the water. This biography not only acknowledges with respect the investigative work of her predecessors, Banner takes the research ...more
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