All The Available Light : A Marilyn Monroe Reader

(Touchstone, 2002)

No star in any genre has affected the world as deeply or has lasted as long without fading as Marilyn Monroe. This thought-provoking and wide-ranging collection of essays examines the undiminished incandescence of Marilyn Monroe — the impact she has had on our culture, the evolution of her legend since her death, and what she tells us now about our lives and times — and includes previously unpublished work from some of America’s best writers, such as: Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Elliot Dark, Albert Mobilo, Marge Piercy, Lore Segal, Lisa Shea, and many more.

From her troubled family beginnings to the infamous $13 million auction held at Christie’s in New York City, All the Available Light paints an unforgettable portrait of Marilyn as you’ve never seen her before.

Click to read an excerpt from the book

Praise for ALL THE AVAILABLE LIGHT
“McDonough selects articles from an array of talented writers…to explore Monroe’s painful contradictions. Admired by millions, she was painfully lonely and insecure; sexually provocative, she was delicate and childlike; capable of attracting “all the available light” in any room she entered, she was shy to the point of reclusiveness. An awesome turn-on but totally nonthreatening, she made an ideal transitional figure between the uptight Œ50s and the sexual revolution… Much is made here of the iconic moments in her life: the windblown skirt over the subway grating in The Seven Year Itch, her singing of “Happy Birthday” to JFK at Madison Square Garden. Essays discuss her unhappy childhood, her determination to become a serious actor, and the cultural significance of her screen persona. Among the standouts are “Centerfold,” by Joyce Carol Oates, writing as if from Marilyn’s perspective; “The ‘Love Goddess’ Who Never Found Any Love,” by Claire Booth Luce; Laurence Olivier’s acid recollections of shooting “The Prince and the Showgirl;” and “Two Daughters,” a compelling piece by Dennis Grunes comparing Monroe with fellow ’50s icon “Not-Marilyn” Audrey Hepburn. There are also…an appreciation of Monroe’s singing, a discussion of how her girlish voice influenced numerous women, including Jackie Kennedy, an account of her conversion to Judaism on the day she married Arthur Miller and a final reflection on the Christie’s auction, decades after her death, of Monroe’s clothes, shoes and other personal effects… Insightful, and like Monroe herself, displaying tender charm alongside the glitz.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“I’m not even a particular fan of Monroe, who (on paper at least) seems all to schematic in her appeal: a fabulously sexy woman radically devoid of even a hint of the the threat of female sexual power. But the truth is that no sooner did I pick up this volume, which contains some of the most legendary writing on Monroe, than I got sucked in. It’s a cliche, yes, but the secret of true stars is their ability to contain myriad contradictions and yet to always seem to be more than the sum of their parts. There’s no Norman Mailer here (he’s always just writing about himself anyway), but Clare Booth Luce’s famous essay about how, far from killing her, Hollywood saved Monroe’s life is worth the price of admission, plus you get Albert Mobilio’s wonderful meditation of Tom Ewell (“The Seven Year Itch”) as Monroe’s ideal costar too.”
—Laura Miller, Salon

“Journalist and editor McDonough (The Barbie Chronicles) takes on an ambitious project: collecting thoughts about a woman whose every nuance has been so exhaustively discussed that nothing new, it seems, could possibly be said. Happily, McDonough pulls it off, delivering new insight into a star who absorbed all the available light and made it her own. With some new material and a wealth of previously published essays, the collection glitters with the inclusion of luminaries like Molly Haskell, Marge Piercy and Joyce Carol Oates. The pieces range widely in subject while keeping Marilyn at the center: Laurence Olivier writes of being charmed, somewhat against his will, by the bouncy star, while other essayists describe how the mere image of Marilyn changed the way they saw themselves or the world. Especially nice is McDonough’s juxtaposition of pieces from different times, such as Clare Boothe Luce’s 1964 article following Gloria Steinem’s 1986 essay, with both taking a similar position on Love Goddess as victim, but from two very different angles. Often, the essayists question their own fascination and that of their readers. Steinem writes that Marilyn’s untimely death may have something to do with it: When the past dies, there is mourning, but when the future dies, our imaginations are compelled to carry it on. A dissection of celebrity in a starstruck age, this collection is at once intelligent and fresh, proving once again why the Love Goddess will continue to live on.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred review)
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