Firstly, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year. I know I am behind in my book reviews— I had to take off most of the month of December due to increased hours in my day job and a mandatory quarantine at the beginning of the month. I am back now, however, and so far in good health.
Let’s kick off the year with a review of December’s book Stoned like a Statue. Marilyn Monroe’s copy of the book was a Christmas gift from Dean Martin, who wrote the introduction, which you can read in the picture below
The book itself is a collection of images of sculptures—mostly ancient and mostly Greco-Roman, though a few from South America and other parts of the world are included. As a “survey” is a comical imitation of what mid-century archaeological surveys looked like in that it includes images of the statues, as well as the subject matter and where they are located. The statues also include “drinking clichés,” although they are for the most part not well-known phrases, just things a drunk person might say. The humor in many of the phrases did not stand the test of time, being misogynistic and at least one including a slur. Below are some of the tamer examples I found.
The layout of the book is visually pleasing—and I surmise is easy enough for even a very inebriated person to read (who must, I think, be the book’s target audience). But at its heart, the book centers on decoupling historical context from ancient objects, which reinforces mid-century values. Take, for instance, how the book characterizes the Venus of Willendorf. This object, which is dated to 28,000–25,000 BCE, demonstrated the aesthetic values and artistic skill of the era, and it has been hypothesized that it relates to a symbol of fertility. The book, however, applies 1960’s standards of beauty to poke fun at the original piece, and indeed the people or person who made it.
How Marilyn Monroe might have reacted to receiving this book as a gift is unclear. She did not own many humor books, though the midcentury drinking culture was everywhere, and we see many photos of Marilyn at parties and venues where there are cocktails. We do know, based on her books, that she was a fan of art history and herself owned a number of art history surveys. In the future I plan to look more closely at Marilyn Monroes love for art history (perhaps as a chapter of a book!).
Book club members are still voting for January’s book, and once that is known it will be announced first on Instagram, and then here.