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‘MARILYN MONROE READING ULYSSES’: EVE ARNOLD (1955)

After the shoot on Long Island’s Cedar Beach

they drove next to a local playground.

While Eve loaded her camera, Marilyn sat

on some play equipment and read a book –

her worn copy of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’,

which she kept in her car, and had been reading

for some time, often aloud to get it’s sense.

(She looks to be about nine tenths through

so into Molly Bloom’s unpunctuated

soliloquy of love and longing).

This photograph of a pretty woman

in her late twenties, tanned, wearing short shorts

and a stripy top, reading an egghead’s book

was greeted with incredulity, “Oh yeah!” –

and, more harshly, “The thinking man’s shiksa!“.

 

Among the four hundred and thirty books

auctioned after her death were works by Flaubert,

Freud, Aristotle, Housman, as well as Joyce.

She was on Long Island that day visiting

her friend the poet Norman Rosten,

one of the last people she spoke to

the day before she died. Long before they met

he wrote, ‘Morning meets memory/and kills it’.

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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3 Responses
  • John Huddart
    May 29, 2019

    A fine piece of craft. Nicely-melded reflection and biography. Unlike many stars whose fame destroys them somehow, she seemed undeserving of her fate, and the book, and her response to it, shows intelligence, persistence, and a gentle put down of Joyce and his ‘difficulty’. Thanks for making me follow the trail of the photo. Sweet, ordinary and telling.

  • Alan Horne
    June 4, 2019

    Great to read such a different account of Monroe.

  • David Selzer
    June 5, 2019

    Arthur Miller’s description of Marilyn Monroe and his relationship with her in ‘Time Bends’, his autobiography, is worth reading, and another balancing of the account.

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