Two Myths Converge: NM Discovers MM

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"Everybody is always tugging at you. They'd all like sort of a chunk of you. They kind of like to take pieces out of you."

−Marilyn Monroe

"I fantasized it would be a simple matter for me−I was the one to take Marilyn away from Arthur Miller. Now I'm older and wiser and I know better. I'd have been no improvement on Miller."

−Norman Mailer

He was three years old when she was born in 1926. At the age of 25, with Harvard, the war and a brilliant first novel behind him, he was an international celebrity. By then, with a history of foster homes, a wrecked marriage, a knockabout modeling career behind her, she was that classic Hollywood joke, a starlet−a person defined by Ben Hecht as any woman under 30 not actively employed in a brothel. But five years later, he was the one who was floundering, attacked as a writer whose promise had been tinsel and thunder; it was she who had become a global superstar. He was the one who fantasized about her. She did not know he existed.

It has taken Norman Mailer nearly five decades to achieve a truly Monrovian status. But he is still fantasizing. "I come from Brooklyn," says Mailer, "and she had the basic stuff out of which Brooklyn dream girls are made." Besides, "I felt some sort of existential similarities with Marilyn Monroe." Both, in fact, were seen as romantic symbols, larger than lifestyle. Both were reconciliations of opposites: Mailer described himself as a radical conservative, a combination of street toughness and book learning. Monroe was the essence of soft, vacuous femininity−but she could be as bright and unyielding as a diamond, and she had deep yearnings for intellectuality. Both were disproportionately rewarded and resented. What could be more fortuitous than the meeting of these two uniquely American superstars? The project belongs in lights: Gentleman Prefers Blonde: NM Meets MM. Out of such amalgams come great legends, heavy bestsellers−but alas, not great biographies.

Not that it matters. Mailer's new Marilyn is a book of gargantuan propensities. It is giant in format (9 in. by 11 in.), formidable in price and weight ($19.95, 3 Ibs. 3 oz.), and incalculable in impact. It will soon be excerpted for publication in a dozen countries−including Finland, France and Japan. More than a million Ibs. of paper will be used for its first American printing (in Monroe County, N.Y.) of 285,000 copies. The Book-of-the-Month Club has made Marilyn its main selection for August−the most expensive book ever so offered to the membership. A TV special and screen bio are being planned. Doubtless there will also be Marilyn Monroe posters, buttons, dresses and hair styles. An industry is under way, triggered by this irresistible shotgun wedding of talents.

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