Whilst on the hunt for a new profile picture of Marilyn I stumbled upon these pictures of her reading and just could not stop looking, it was as if I were seeing her for the first time over and over again. There is something strangely gratifying about watching this wistfully sexy woman read. It distills the predictable associations of Marilyn with tragedy or performed sexuality, instead Marilyn the formidable show pony appears relaxed, warm and quite possibly the most naked you'll ever see her. This post from Rare Rare Find uses Jeanette Winterson's words that are typically informed by her fiercely independent way of thinking and writing. Instead of focusing on the napalm effect of a woman with beauty and brains from a male perspective she gives a refreshingly universal psychological insight into what it is we can all see when Marilyn lets herself go into her private world; a place we all go into when reading, a place free of the cumbersome human gaze or social limitations:
This is so sexy, precisely because it’s Marilyn reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. She doesn’t have to pose, we don’t even need to see her face, what comes off the photo is absolute concentration, and nothing is sexier than absolute concentration. There she is, the goddess, not needing to please her audience or her man, just living inside the book. The vulnerability is there, but also something we don’t often see in the blonde bombshell; a sense of belonging to herself. It’s not some playboy combination of brains and boobs that is so perfect about this picture; it is that reading is always a private act, is intimate, is lover’s talk, is a place of whispers and sighs, unregulated and usually unobserved. We are the voyeurs, it’s true, but what we’re spying on is not a moment of body, but a moment of mind. For once, we’re not being asked to look at Marilyn, we’re being given a chance to look inside her.
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ps: Some of these photos were taken by Eve Arnold
pps: Notice how she's reading Leaves of Grass...Let this be a lesson to us all; you can have fabulous hair and still have great taste in literature (even if Arthur Miller did concoct a reading list for her...ahem)
and in answer to the Daily Mail's Liz Jones' ceaseless hand wringing over feminist credentials: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1230094/LIZ-JONES-Can-wear-false-eyelashes-feminist.html Yes you can. Calloused hands and cat lady hair has not equalled feminism since the radicals got relegated to the last and never again reached for section of Literary Criticism handbooks because it hurt the heads of students and strange people with nannies and a stash of 'pot' for special dining occasions with imaginings of a world devoid of all pleasure. All hail Marilyn.