Marilyn Reads

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)

You tell me.

Have a great week, everyone!


PS – Check out this FANTASTIC tumblr called Awesome People Reading. Tons of entertaining images!

Happy Bloomsday!

Happy June 16, everyone! It’s the day to celebrate Bloomsday!

Now to be honest, I’ve never read James Joyce’s Ulysses, and I’m convinced that 99.9% of people have not. But I have read some Joyce (and consider “The Dead” to be one of the three perfect short stories of the western canon), so in honor of Mr. Joyce, here are a few odd lines from Ulysses taken completely out of context for your enjoyment. (Not that context really matters too much in this book . . .)

  • Tenderly Bloom over liverless bacon saw the tightened features strain. Backache he. Bright’s bright eye. Next item on the programme. Paying the piper. Pills, pounded bread, worth a guinea a box. Stave it off awhile. Sings too: Down among the dead men. Appropriate. Kidney pie. Sweets to the. Not making much hand of it. Best value in. Characteristic of him. Power. Particular about his drink. Flaw in the glass, fresh Vartry water. Fecking matches from counters to save. Then squander a sovereign in dribs and drabs. And when he’s wanted not a farthing. Screwed refusing to pay his fare. Curious types.
  • O greasy eyes! Imagine being married to a man like that! she cried. With his bit of beard!
  • She is drowning. Agenbite. Save her. Agenbite. All against us. She will drown me with her, eyes and hair. Lank coils of seaweed hair around me, my heart, my soul. Salt green death.
  • Bald deaf Pat brought quite flat pad ink. Pat set with ink pen quite flat pad. Pat took plate dish knife fork. Pat went.
  • Goodbye, now, goodbye! Write down all I said / And tell Tom, Dick and Harry I rose from the dead. / What’s bred in the bone cannot fail me to fly / And Olivet’s breezy . . . Goodbye, now, goodbye!

Cheers to James Joyce, Leopold Bloom, and the land of Éire!


PS – Check out this really sexy picture of Marilyn Monroe reading—you guessed it—Ulysses.

Wordle Beautiful

Have you ever used Wordle? It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing!

A friend of mine who teaches creative writing told me about this site, where you turn your writing samples into “beautiful word clouds.” Basically, the system locates the words you use the most, and then configures them into a lovely visual image. I decided to run my comprehensive exam through, and here’s what I generated.

It’s such a fantastic idea! Not only does it give you a gorgeous snapshot of your work, but it also makes you aware of the words you use most frequently. Sometimes you want to use those words often; other times, you might not—so it points out what might be potential flaws. In my case, it looks like I use “though” too much. It was a great idea for my friend to make his students create their own Wordles, so they could locate idiosyncrasies in their stories that they may have never noticed otherwise.

You can also tweak your Wordle to your own taste, changing things things like the fonts and colors. This lovely font here is Coolvetica. If it turns out that I passed this test, I may frame this little sucker. (Or at least print it out and hang it up somewhere.) If I failed, well then—I will just do it again next time.

Check it out for yourself! It’s free, and incredibly entertaining. You can also browse other people’s clouds to see what folks all over the internet are writing about this very minute.