David Marshall, author of The DD Group: An Online Investigation Into The Death Of Marilyn Monroe, has reviewed my novel, The Mmm Girl.
“When reading The Mmm Girl, one can not help but realize that all previous attempts never quite got it – that elusive something special that made Monroe so incredibly unique…for those who have come to their own personal understanding of Monroe’s character and tale, for perhaps the very first time they will now be able to find ‘their Marilyn’ right there in print, all of her thoughts and actions captured in book form…Tara Hanks, who had never met Marilyn Monroe, let alone interviewed her or shared time with her, succeeds so far beyond other authors…it takes not only talent but heart to tell the story right. Tara Hanks has both.”
To learn more about David, click here
Now read the review in full:
The Mmm Girl: Marilyn Monroe, By Herself
Reviewed by David Marshall for Forever Marilyn
It’s been done before, an author stepping in to create an autobiography for one who is no longer alive to tell their own story. In Marilyn Monroe’s case, this approach was most famously taken by Norman Mailer with his 1980 Of Women and Their Elegance, when he tired to make things right after the insinuations he had relied upon for his first attempt at capturing Monroe in 1973’s Marilyn. Ben Hecht with Milton Greene’s help used Marilyn’s voice as well when they attempted to “flesh out” Marilyn’s own attempt at telling her story, the aptly named My Story. And in 1999 Charles Casillo took the approach when he created for print the infamous “red diary” with his The Marilyn Diaries. So the question might be asked why another author would take this well-traveled road in telling the Monroe story. The answer, for me at least, is that try as they might, not one of the above had the combination of empathy, talent, and, for want of a better word, a female perspective, to come close to realizing what Marilyn Monroe herself may have had to say about her life and times. While each of the prior attempts had their merits, not one was able to catch the ethereal spirit behind the woman who has now been gone for so long yet is still so vividly alive in the national (and international) consciousness. Compared to Tara Hanks’ The Mmm Girl, even Marilyn’s own My Story comes in second place.
Hanks’ earlier work, Wicked Baby, the story of Christine Keeler and the Profumo Affair, showed that the author had the eye for detail needed to recreate a past era and the talent to present the emotional background of a woman caught in the headlights of publicity. Yet as fine as that work was, it was so slim a volume that the reader was left far too quickly wishing there were more. With The Mmm Girl, Hanks proves that she not only has talent but has gained the confidence required to tell the full story, no matter what the subject. And here she has taken on one of the most complex stories of modern times, the intricate and much guessed at emotional state of one of the world’s best known and most controversial individuals. While others have told the story in countless times before and while the tale has been retold so often via mediocre made for TV excursions, one would think that most everyone on the planet not only knows the story by heart but has grown weary of hearing it. Yet when reading The Mmm Girl, one can not help but realize that all previous attempts never quite got it – that elusive something special that made Monroe so incredibly unique. So does Hanks “get it”? Does she nail down the chimera that was Monroe? No one living will ever know for certain but for those who have come to their own personal understanding of Monroe’s character and tale, for perhaps the very first time they will now be able to find “their Marilyn” right there in print, all of her thoughts and actions captured in book form.
In the past I have often emphasized the merit of a Marilyn book lies with the author having actually have known their subject in person. Susan Strasberg, Norman Rosten, WJ Weatherby, even Eunice Murray all seem to have successfully captured Marilyn while others, even if exceedingly talented, such as Norman Mailer, Donald Spoto or Michael Korda, conjure only a ghost of what was. This isn’t always the case, of course. Michelle Morgan’s Private and Undisclosed works its magic because she was able to ferret out those who had personal memories that had not been shared. Fred Lawrence Guiles’ Norma Jean worked because the memories were so fresh and he had an obvious affection for the late star.
Yet others who did know Marilyn failed when they attempted to recreate thoughts or conversations and the result was either disappointing or at times vulgar. Lena Pepitone is a case in point. If you believe Ted Jordan, his would be, like Robert Slatzer’s, yet another. And if one is to consider why someone like Pepitone, who did have first hand experience failed where Hanks succeeds, one has to realize that it really does come down to something as simple as heart. Not once in Pepitone’s book does one feel a true empathy. And yet Tara Hanks, who had never met Marilyn Monroe, let alone interviewed her or shared time with her, succeeds so far beyond other authors simply because she set out not to write a tell all bestseller or to publish fodder for a future TV movie. She set out to share what no one had been able to do in the past: Marilyn’s own feelings about her life. The result is not hackneyed, nor is it a sob story worthy of an E! Entertainment treatment. If one takes one’s subject seriously, if one gives actual thought to the story and tries to imagine, knowing what they do of Monroe’s character and personality, how she would react to the many now well known episodes of her life, the result will satisfy even the most hardened and skeptical of Monroe fans.
Here’s the bottom line: By this point the Monroe story is so well known that nearly anyone could sit dow in front of their computer and churn out a recitation of the woman’s life. But it takes not only talent but heart to tell the story right. Tara Hanks has both.