What is it that makes Marilyn Monroe one among that number of people who, despite all their best efforts, seem unable to die? Why is she still with us? Why does she continue to preoccupy the national consciousness? Does she in fact preoccupy the national consciousness? And if so, what on earth does that mean?

It was in an attempt to answer some of these questions for myself that I went to see Marilyn: An American Fable. This is not the first time Norma Jean Baker has engaged the artistic imagination, of course. Warhol has painted her, Mailer has written fulsomely about her, and Arthur Miller (one of her husbands) has made her the subject of a play, After the Fall. Even Elton John, coming somewhat after the fact, has been moved to pay tribute. His fairly insipid lyrics are worth quoting here if only to illustrate Marilyn’s legendary status in the Spiritual Hall of Fame of popular consciousness. “Goodbye,...


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