Lee Siegel is the author of four books, including Against the Machine: How the Web Is Reshaping Culture and Commerce—and Why It Matters and Are You Serious: How to Be True and Get Real in the Age of Silly. He is also the author of the essay “Harvard Is Burning,” just published as an e-book. He has written essays and reviews for many publications, including Harper’s Magazine, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times. In 2002, he received the National Magazine Award for Reviews and Criticism.

Unsexing Marilyn

Marilyn Monroe, Los Angeles, 1960

It is not entirely the fault of the recent movie My Week with Marilyn—about Monroe’s disastrous attempt to make The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier—that it is devoid of sex, which is something like depicting the life of Napoleon without mentioning that he was French. Monroe might have been one of the most sexual beings who ever lived, but the portrayals of her, even by disillusioned observers, sooner or later descend into a sanitized ideal. The sex is overtaken by sentimental treacle, or heroic fantasy, or defensive over-analysis.

The Two Walkabouts

Walkabout, directed by Nicolas Roeg, 1971
It is the fate of certain novels to become classics only after they become movies, and then to be eclipsed by the movies that made them classics. James Vance Marshall’s enchanting short novel Walkabout was published in Britain in 1959. Yet it was not until Nicolas Roeg turned it into …