Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fragments by Marilyn Monroe edited by Stanley Buchtal and Bernard Comment

Fragments:  Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe  is a poorly executed yet vaguely interesting idea.  Of course, one could debate the necessity or even rationale for delving into someone’s personal effects but this is not the first time such things have been published and no doubt it won’t be the last.

For me the most interesting part, oddly enough, was a collection of images at the end of the book, covers from the books Marilyn Monroe had on her bookshelves.  Interesting that so few of them were written by women.  What does this suggest?  What does this say about her?  Thankfully, the editors did not pass any judgment or make any suggestions as to the books and their personal relevance.

And it is the editorial content I found most annoying.  I get the distinct impression that they were invited to do this because they either know someone who knows someone or because they claim to know more than they do about Marilyn Monroe.  Just because one is familiar with her life and/or a fan of her body and/or her body of work doesn’t qualify them for editorial efforts on her behalf.  The quality of the comments is insulting to the reader’s intelligence.  Some notes highlight that Monroe is quoting from a script.  I concede that this may be necessary for some readers because not everyone who is a Monroe fan will have seen every movie she’s been in.  However, there is one glaring script quote that has no editorial comment (found on pages 166 & 167) and I had to wonder if they editors were either too lazy or too ignorant to recognize that the words are from Bus Stop.

Either way, I found myself balking at the suppositions and suggestions that the editors used throughout to contextualize everything they included in this book.  It’s hard to say what merit these choices have over all.  I can understand having to footnote names to explain who is being referenced but why bother pointing out that something is a quote from a movie if you aren’t going to consistently do so throughout the book?  Inconsistency is bad enough but I don’t really care for conjecture and speculation about the relevance or meaning of a text should be left to op-ed piece, not the editorial notes and the editors should have known better than to opine on things about which they cannot be definitive.

If this book hadn’t been a gift, I’d not have bothered to read it.  I don’t recommend it to anyone although I did find the look at her bookshelf to be of particular interest.  However, that’s just how I am.  When I go to people’s homes, I inevitably explore the bookshelves. I find them endlessly fascinating a great source of insight into other people’s interests.

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