I have read many books on Marilyn Monroe throughout the years and I do not claim to be a MM expert but would say I have retained quite a bit of information on the subject of Marilyn. I do not always believe everything I've read, especially the many "conspiracy theories" of her death and the differing timelines of her last days but I must say that of ALL the books I have consumed on the subject of Monroe, I found MARILYN:THE PASSION AND THE PARADOX to be the most informative and appears to have been extensively researched by the author, Lois Banner.
Banner is an acclaimed author and the first woman president of the American Studies Association, winning the ASA's Bode-Pearson Prize for Outstanding Contributions to American Studies. Banner is a major collector of Marilyn Monroe artifacts and in addition to MARILYN:THE PASSION AND THE PARADOX, she has also authored MM-PERSONAL, which discusses items from MM's personal archive. Lois Banner is a professor of history and gender studies at USC.
The book is written in chronological order of MM's life, beginning with the young Norma Jeane Mortenson. It covers almost every aspect of Norma Jeane's life from birth to her marriage to Jim Dougherty and her successful career as a West Coast model in painstaking detail. I feel this book contains more information about these years in Marilyn's life than any book I've read before it.
Banner explores the many faces of Monroe. We are introduced to the energetic, charming, seductive and perfectionist that Marilyn was and then the many contradictions of this persona. The author convinced me that Marilyn was many things other than just a glorified sex symbol of her time and while MM loved this status she also loathed it, convinced that all men used her. This book brings to light the many complexities of Marilyn Monroe, her strengths and weakness, the "happy" Marilyn vs the "dark" Marilyn. Lois Banner, through her exhaustive ten years of research, seems to explain who the real Marilyn Monroe was along with the paradox. Banner writes, "She spoke about her many selves, but she seemed confused about who she wanted to be." Perhaps Marilyn explains it best herself:
"A lot of people like to think of me as innocent, so that's the way I behave to them. If they
saw the demon in me, they would hate me...I'm more than one person, and I act differently
each time. Most of the time I'm not the person I'd like to be--certainly not a dumb blonde
like they say I am; a sex freak with big boobs."