Teaser Tuesday – Blonde

Currently I’m reading Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve been reading it for a while as it’s a long book of over 700 pages. I’m about a third of the way into it. It’s a fictionalised account of Norma Jeane Baker – also known as Marilyn Monroe and it is absolutely fascinating.

No doubt I’ll be writing more about this book. For now here is a little teaser quotation:

Her problem wasn’t she was a dumb blonde, it was she wasn’t a blonde and she wasn’t dumb. (page 232)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizB of Should be Reading.

Book Beginnings

There came Death hurtling along the Boulevard in waning sepia light.

There came Death flying as a children’s cartoon on a heavy unadorned messenger’s bicycle.

There came Death unerring. Death not to be persuaded. Death-in-a-hurry. Death furiously pedalling. Death carrying a package marked *SPECIAL DELIVERY HANDLE WITH CARE* in a sturdy wire basket behind his seat.

These are the opening lines of the Prologue, ‘Special Delivery’ in Joyce Carol Oates’s novel Blonde. The date is 3 August 1962 – the date of Marilyn Monroe’s death. It doesn’t give anything away – Marilyn’s death has been well documented even if it still remains under suspicion and speculation. Blonde tells the fictionalised story of Norma Jeane Baker, who became the beautiful ‘Fair Princess‘ of the movies.

The only difficulty I have in reading Blonde is the weight and size of the book – not ideal for reading in bed. And it has 738 pages – and I’m only on page 52.

Book Beginnings is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages, where you can leave a link to your own post on the opening lines of a book you’re currently reading.

The Sunday Salon

Sunday SalonToday I’ve been reading an autobiography that reads like a novel and a novel that is a fictionalised biography.

The autobiography is William Woodruff’s The Road to Nab End. I’m loving this book and am amazed at the detail he could remember about his childhood. I was very interested in his family background. In 1906 his parents had emigrated from Blackburn to Fall River in Massachusetts, where his father worked in a cotton mill. Although he was doing well they returned to England in 1914. His father then joined up and went off to war, leaving his wife with three children to care for; when her savings ran out she was forced to work in the mills.

road-to-nab-endWilliam was born in 1916. After the end of the war life was very different. His father came home disillusioned, a sick man, having been gassed at Ypres late in 1917, back to his job in the cotton mills. This book covers the period up to 1933, the poverty of Blackburn’s cotton workers, the local characters and their way of life. This morning I was reading about the General Strike of 1926 and was wondering how it affected my parents who were 12 at the time. William’s experience in Blackburn could have been similar to my father’s who lived about 30 miles south in Cheshire. Jumping forward in time William eventually moved to Florida, where he was a Graduate Research Professor until his retirement in 1996 – at the age of 80! He died last September in Florida. He continued his life story in Beyond Nab End.

blondeI do like variety in my reading and this morning I also briefly picked up Blonde by Joyce Carole Oates. I only read The Prologue and the first chapter, The Kiss, of this fictionalised life of Marilyn Monroe. Oates’s portrait imagines Marilyn’s inner life and begins with a portrayal of Death, hurtling unexpectedly to 12305 Fifth Helena Drive, Brentwood, California on 3 August 1962. I was reminded of the character of Death in The Good Thief. This book is going to take me a while to read as it’s another mammoth novel of 738 pages. I might alternate my reading with Barbara Leaming’s biography, Marilyn Monroe to see how they compare.