It is true that Oates’ book also exaggerates Monroe’s suffering and degradation for its own complex purposes—but that portrayal is counter-weighted by an abundance of Oatesian beauty, depth and power, striking a brilliant mixed tone that is appropriate to its subject. Monroe’s life was an electrifying intersection of opposites: love and lovelessness, degradation and exaltation, power and vulnerability—powerful vulnerability, lushly embodied. This is something Oates seems to understand deeply; that some people, some times, can be a “Fair Princess” and a “Beggar Maid” simultaneously. Such opposites are hard to bear, and they can be present in anyone’s life—I would even say that they are present in nearly everyone’s life in one way or another. But how hard and complicated to not only channel these opposites but to do so in public, in the creation of an avatar-like persona of pure delight.