BOOK REVIEW BY DAVID MARSHALL
It’s funny that the little books about
Marilyn seem to give the reader so much more than the really extensive tomes
filled with interviews and facts. I’m thinking about Susan Strasberg’s
“Marilyn and Me”, W.J. Weatherly’s “Conversations with Marilyn”, even
Mrs. Murray’s “Last Months”. But in my opinion, the greatest of all the
little books is Norman Rosten’s “Marilyn: An Untold Story”.
Now that I’ve listed the titles,
another common thread appears to me, one that is likely much more important--
all of these books were written by people who actually knew Marilyn, people who
observed her from all angles-- be it as their employer, a new friend or someone
for whom Marilyn had become such a huge part of their life that she could be
considered family. With Norman Rosten we add another perspective-- that of
friend to the ex-husband, one half of a married couple Marilyn hoped to emulate.
Rosten, like the others, was there and his first hand account of Marilyn before
and after the Miller years is something that, like Marilyn, lingers on long
after the final chapter has been reached.
Don’t look here for any hardcore
reporting nor any speculation on the circumstances of her death. Rosten leaves
those well-covered areas to others. What he has here is a short volume that
lacks any pretensions of being the “last word” on what made Monroe tick.
What he presents is simply the memories of a friend, a man who along with his
wife recognized a kindred poet locked in a sex symbol’s body, a soft and
likely all too trusting woman who just happened to be one of the world’s most
recognized celebrities. The final result is not so much a work of revelations
but a simple journey of a slowly forming friendship that impacted one man’s
life and memory, a small volume of tribute that rises above the hoopla of her
life and the cottage industry that followed her death.
As I say, there is nothing
earth-shattering here and that is just the point. What Rosten has allowed his
readers to see is not the behind the scenes confessional of an ex-maid or yet
another self-proclaimed lover. These are the stories and lingering memories of
such mundane matters as a trip to a museum, a walk through a new home or the
easy going chatter around a backyard cook-out with the summer twilight deepening
and the next round of drinks brought out by the author’s wife. It is the story
of a married couple meeting a friend’s new wife. The story of watching the new
wife adapt to her husband’s circle and the story of what happens after that
marriage has floundered and how one can at least attempt to remain friends post
divorce. For all the claims of the many authors who have chosen Monroe as their
subject, it remains in the hands of the small book authors such as Strasberg and
Rosten to provide us with the closest idea we will likely ever have of just what
Marilyn Monroe was “really” like. And thank God for that, eh?
“Marilyn: An Untold Story” is,
(as the back cover blurb states), “a candid and revealing close-up that
captures all the variations and enigmas of her amazing life.” Keep an eye out
at the used book stores, the remainder bins and eBay and amazon. “Untold
Story” is one of those tiny treasures that will linger in your memory just as
Marilyn lingers in Rosten’s.