Marilyn as muse

Prolific novelist and short story writer Joyce Carol Oates still finds inspiration in Marilyn Monroe. The author conjured her 12 years ago in the novel “Blonde.” Now Oates goes back to Monroe’s starlet days for the title story in her latest collection, “Black Dahlia & White Rose.” She imagines Marilyn as the roommate of the equally ambitious but more unfortunate Elizabeth Short, the so-called Black Dahlia, whose mutilated body was found 66 years ago this month in a vacant Los Angeles lot. The murder has never been solved.

Reviewing the collection in The New York Times Jan. 20 Book Review, novelist Randy Boyagoda writes: “(Oates) uses Monroe’s pre-celebrity life to add a speculative dimension to an already enjoyable bit of noir fiction. How different might American pop culture have been if sexy, angelic Norma Jeane Baker had been the unknown young actress who’d gone to dinner with a murderous voyeur rather than sexy, vampish Elizabeth Short?”

Indeed. Oates, of course, can do gruesome like nobody’s business. Her latest novel, “Daddy Love,” is the tale of a 5-year-old coping with his abduction by a child molester. It’s disturbing stuff, but those who’ve been with her since “Son of the Morning” – about a preacher brought grisly low by pride – are compelled to admire her gift for portraying the whited sepulcher that is sometimes American society.

For more on Marilyn, check out WAG’s February issue.


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