Marilyn Monroe and Ulysses
Here is the picture featured on the cover of the latest Poets & Writers issue. At first I wasn’t sure if it was really Marilyn Monroe. Why? Well, she’s reading one of the all-time toughest/”greatest” books out there: Ulysses by James Joyce. Turns out she really was reading the book when the photographer took this picture. He was loading film in his camera and she was just chilling with her book. She said that it (the book) was giving her trouble and because it was so hard she only read bits and pieces at a time, but she also liked to read certain parts of it out loud.
It may sound to you like an easy chance to throw a blonde joke in there, but let me tell you something about this book: it ain’t no joke. I had some downtime in a dirty hostel in Rome when I decided it was the perfect time to read Ulysses. So I went into a bookstore and bought myself a a brand-new copy.
I wasn’t sure what I was reading until I went back and read the intro — it at least told me what was happening and what Joyce was “trying to do” with the book. Impressive, that’s for sure, but way over my head.
Has anyone out there read this book, enjoyed it, and “got it?” I’m very wary of anyone who says they have (unless you’re a professor or a genius and in your mid 40s) because this is a super tough book. I tried and I tried hard. I think that anyone who says they get it is just trying to show off the way people do when they claim they’ve read Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust.
Anyway, I just wanted to stick up for Marilyn for being brave enough to try to read this tough book and to let all you folks out there know that the picture isn’t meant to be ironic or funny, it’s just the photographer capturing a side of her that very few people got to see.
Image source: Eve Arnold, Marilyn Monroe Reading Ulysses, Long Island, New York, 1954.