Free at Last, Free at Last, or, Finished Book 1: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

::Insert non-existent clip of Al Gore playing Celebrate on The Simpsons:: I feel a major lesson can be learned from every book you read. I learned two from Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. 1) Boy, does she enjoy writing in broken up, abbreviated, improper English for effect (and does it well, I'm not criticizing); 2) Never pick 700+ page books to read in a speed reading contest. In other news, the Earth revolves around the sun and chocolate might not be as bad for you as once thought, or might be worse, depending on the study. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates is historical fiction on the surface. Reviews are almost obligated to call it historical fiction because it's a fictionalized biography of Marilyn Monroe. However, as Oates has pointed out in the past, she doesn't view anything historical about it. It's fiction. Not historical fiction, either, or anything remotely resembling a biography. No. If anything, it's speculative fiction, as there couldn't possibly be any evidence stating with veracity exactly what Marilyn Monroe or anyone she was connected to in life was thinking at every given moment. What Blonde provides is a heartfelt, deeply moving investigation into a woman thrust into a spotlight she could never have been prepared for. Oates seamlessly blends limited third person narration with third person omniscient by shifting, even within a single sentence, from one person's viewpoint to another. She may start and end the sentence with Marilyn thinking about her white sharkskin skirt, but in between she provides the viewpoint of a producer trying to get into her skirt. Does it mean the novel has an omniscient narrator? Yes and no. The narrator only knows what any one character is thinking at a given time, and almost seems oblivious to the other characters' thoughts once she leaves their mind. It's a tough device that works wonders here. Speaking of tough, the length of the novel is intimidating. Oates has revealed before that Blonde was intended to be a novella, but she just kept getting more and more ideas. If anything, her comments seem to indicate that 752 pages is the short version of the story. Not everyone has the patience for long novels, either. Indeed, it takes me far longer to read a 700+ page novel than it does to read multiple novels totalling 700+ pages. That's not the fault of the book, either. Frankly, I blame the new media environment. Since we can view anything and everything we want, whenever we want, and never have to finish anything because something else will always be available, we, as a society, don't have the patience to tackle gigantic tomes all at once. Furthermore, with the massive influx of new books hitting the shelves every week, we're encouraged to abandon our old books and start something new. I willingly admit that I'm reading five+ books at any given time. And that's not something to be proud of. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates is a gem of a book, precious in every way. If you've never read her work before, this is a really easy introduction to the style. She doesn't throw the more shocking material at you right away. There aren't footnotes and names hidden by hyphens to pull your eyes from the story (again, I'm not judging; she's one of the only authors I know of that makes these devices a real treat to read). It's beautiful written prose about an icon of American culture. Up Next: Blaze by Stephen King On Deck: Dark Chamber by Leonard Cline

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