Last week I linked to this photo of Marilyn Monroe reading a copy of Ulysses (gracing the cover of Poets & Writers, source: NYTimes):
Yeah, maybe she’s only reading the end of Ulysses if you look closely, but it got me to thinking: Geez, reading sure is sexy! Of course, I’m biased—and I’ve had this thought many times before. But it made me wonder why I have never seen an iconic, sexy figure of my own current culture involved in a book the way Marilyn is here. It also made me think of this image, which I remembered seeing for the first time on Pinterest. (source: ApartmentTherapy)
And then there’s this one, of her reading Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. (source: Belle’s Bookshelf)
Reading Films in Review. (source: NotaMachine)
Holding a book, but not reading it. Gazing at us instead. (source: Coqueterias)
This last one in particular reminds us most blatantly that the book is merely the accessory to Marilyn’s sexiness. The act of reading itself is interrupted as she looks up at us, the voyeurs, and recognizes our presence. Though we most often consider reading a book to be a private act, we are intruders here—but the look on her face welcomes us. Though I know very little about Marilyn Monroe as a person, I have read elsewhere that she actually was a voracious reader, which may explain why these photos look somewhat believable in spite of their artificiality.
If you do a little more internet searching, you’ll find all sorts of these pictures of Marilyn reading something or the other. There are also variations of them, reminding us that they are completely staged images. We aren’t catching Marilyn unawares, though we’d like to think that we are. Nonetheless, it gives us something to think about regarding the role of the book in private and in public, and as an object of desire. I mean, can any of us imagine Paris Hilton actually reading The Art of War? Or is there not even a minor sense of reality here? (source: Jon Tay)
Have a great week, everyone!
PS – Check out this FANTASTIC tumblr called Awesome People Reading. Tons of entertaining images!