(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

More has been written about Marilyn Monroe than about any other film star. She has become a universal figure, a popular-culture archetype, and she is largely responsible for this phenomenon because of her enormous acting talent and genius for self-advertising.

By 1985, more than twenty years after her death, certain confidential information had been released, the correspondence of her psychiatrist had been made available for Anthony Summers to quote, and friends of the Kennedys and of Monroe had become more forthcoming about her affairs with both President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, who was the attorney general at the time.

For readers already in possession of the basic facts, the first half of GODDESS may seem too much like a rehash, although even here Summers has access to some new material. The second half, with its detailed and circumstantial account of Monroe’s last two years, gets to the book’s true subject.

Summers works very hard to corroborate testimony from more than six hundred interviews and does an admirable job of demonstrating that Monroe may have died in embarrassing circumstances, which were suppressed in the subsequent investigation. He does not prove that Robert Kennedy was present on the night of her death, but he certainly shows that the attorney general’s place in her life is not simply a fantasy of murder-conspiracy theorists.

The author is not concerned with the development of the professional actress. In spite of all that has been written about Monroe, there is still no biography that adequately covers both her professional life and her private life. Until that kind of life of the actress appears, the reasons for her continuing impact on popular culture worldwide will not be understood.