I am not a frequent reader of biographies. So often they seem unconvincing by virtue of their speculative nature and groping about for truth in cold facts. Another problem I find is that with so many people that populate one person’s world it is hard, for me, to keep them all straight. Lifetimes, even abbreviated ones, are relentlessly convoluted.
But I was given a biography of Marilyn Monroe, written by Donald Spoto. It came to me by such a long and strange way I was especially compelled to read it. My step-father had picked it up in a waiting room while visiting a friend in an Irish prison. Clearly, if surprisingly, absorbed by the story, the warden told him he could have the book. Deeply moved by the story of Marilyn’s life, and particularly taken with Joe DiMaggio’s loyal love for her, he brought the book to me. The lives and travels of individual books are a wonderful thing.
I had an intense autumn and slogged through all the books I was reading at a snail’s pace. But a few days ago, just half-way through the 600 page bio, I reached the denouement of the tragedy and suddenly it moved swiftly— as I guess all tragedies do.
Spoto writes of Monroe with such tender sympathy and admiration that it is hard, (as by all accounts it was in her lifetime) not to fall in love with her. He takes care to give context to her raging insecurities, as well as to respectfully recount her intellectual curiosity, humanitarianism, and her true talent as an actress.
The doctors and psychiatrists that controlled her life and, according to Spoto, her demise, were egregiously derelict and just plain awful. But Spoto is careful to try to explain how it is that people end up hurting people they are ostensibly seeking to help or love. The collateral damage that is inflicted upon the world, not necessarily with malice, but rather by damaged people reeling senselessly with their own pain— is truly heartbreaking.
Marilyn Monroe had a deep need to be loved. But I suppose we all do. She just let the world see it.