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The Psychoanalysis of Marilyn Monroe

Q&A with Dr. Giosue Ghisalberti

“I want readers to understand her mind. Who was this woman? She’s not the bedroom voice that everyone sees. That’s not Marilyn Monroe. The Marilyn Monroe that is real is the one inside her mind – that nobody sees. And that’s the one that’s in this book.”

- University of Guelph-Humber Psychology Professor, Dr. Giosue Ghisalberti, on his most recent novel, The Psychoanalysis of Marilyn Monroe.

Despite this being a novel, it’s not fiction in the pure sense of the word. You’ve blended real-life history and research with fiction – why?

My PhD was on something called hermeneutics, which is the art of interpretation. So when I look at historical moments that are factual, by interpreting them, I can then give fictional accounts that give you a better understanding of what occurred.

I’m a student of history, but I also take liberties. This isn’t pure fiction. There was a woman named Marilyn Monroe. She did make all these movies, and she did get married to Arthur Miller.

Death of a Salesman, for example, is perhaps Arthur Miller’s most famous work. But the way Marilyn relates to this is a reflection of her psychological state of mind. She understands Willy Loman in a way that relates to her. She is also Willy Loman, because she’s also a salesperson. She sells herself, she sells her body. She understands all that, and she knows that ‘this world has made me sell myself. I don’t like it, but I don’t have anything else.’ And that’s one of her dilemmas. She knew she should have walked away from being a movie star - that it would have been better for her – but she couldn’t.

Why focus on Marilyn Monroe?

The Marilyn that you get from this novel is not the Marilyn anyone knows – not from her movies, nor from her biographies. We want to hold on to a vision of her that isn’t true - and it’s not just with Marilyn that we do this, it’s with all our fantasies. Whatever our fantasies are, we want to hold on to them more than reality itself. Because we can’t deal with reality. Marilyn is the person who allows us to fantasize about something else.

What, then, is your desire as a novelist?

She’s still iconic because we can’t figure her out. That’s why we keep looking at her pictures; that’s why another movie was just made about her last year. We keep looking at her, trying to figure her out, and we can’t. This is because we can’t figure her out before we figure ourselves out. And we can’t figure ourselves out because most of us aren’t insightful enough. And we think she’s going to tell us who we are. She can’t do that.

So one of the things I’m hoping happens with this novel is that in reading about Marilyn Monroe, you start thinking about who you really are. My desire as a novelist is to get you to figure out yourself.