There is much written, rumored, told, and retold about Marilyn Monroe, but the most unusual and remarkable fact about her is this: In person as well in her films, she appeared to be outright luminous–enveloped by a glow, like a firefly in the dark.
Even Laurence Olivier, who costarred with Marilyn in the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl, saw it. Though he seemed to dislike her intensely, he had to admit that, in all her scenes, she lit up the screen.
But exquisite as it can be, luminosity can be a kind of camouflage. It can hide the truth underneath.
What exactly was Marilyn illuminating in the atmosphere that surrounded her? Her beauty was certainly stunning, dazzling–blinding, even–but what did it hide?
Marilyn, more brilliant than many understood, knew well the difference between looking upon the light and seeing beyond the glow. Men do not see me, she said. They just lay their eyes on me.
Psychoanalyst and longtime woman’s biographer Dr. Alma Bond imagines, in detail, a several-year stretch during the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Marilyn, an exceedingly fragile figure, submits to analysis on the couch of Manhattan psychoanalyst Dr. Darcy Dale and, following her return to Hollywood, corresponds with her.
Brilliantly, entertainingly, and movingly, Marilyn Monroe: On the Couch shows just what lay beneath Marilyn’s radiance. Dr. Dale, a fictional stand-in for the author, Dr. Bond, sees Marilyn Monroe as few ever have, both inside and out, and transfers those insights to readers. It’s impossible to imagine anyone providing a better, more complete, intimate, and unforgettable understanding of this truly remarkable, iconic, and even pivotal figure in film and sexual history.
Like many people, I’ve been a fan of Marilyn Monroe all my life. Not only was she a luminously beautiful icon, but she also possessed an innocent gentleness and vulnerability that comes across many of her movies and photographs in spite of her being a sex symbol. So when the author contacted me for a review, I readily agreed.
From the very first pages, I was instantly submerged. This is an usual book. It isn’t a memoir or a biography. Instead, it is a fictional account of Marilyn’s sessions with a “made-up” Manhattan psychoanalyst, Dr. Darcy Dale during the last seven years of her life. The author, Alma H. Bond, a biographer and psychoanalyst herself, brings into the book her own professional experience to make the sessions realistic and compelling.
Dr. Dale kind of stays in the background, allowing Marilyn to come fully to life, revealing a complex, sad, unbalanced, sensitive, naive and vulnerable–yet at times ruthless, egotistical, capricious and manipulative personality. Through their sessions, which mostly consist of Marilyn’s monologues, the star takes the reader on a journey from the time she was born to a schizophrenic mother, to the time she was sexually abused as a child by a foster parent, to her rise to the top and eventually her sudden suicide which shocked the world. We learn about the people who had pivotal roles in her life and career, her relationships with men, her abuse of alcohol and drugs, and her ultimately tragic, unbalanced emotions and desires.
The reader may not always like the Marilyn in this book, but I think the author has done an excellent job in portraying a complex character with both good and bad qualities. Ultimately, I think the star inspires pity, and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her in spite of all the success she had in Hollywood. She is indeed an icon of beauty and femininity, but a tragic one at that. I have read other fictional biographies by Bond in the past and this one seems to be just as well researched. On the Couch: Inside the Mind and Life of Marilyn Monroe is one I can readily recommend.
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