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7 great reads

Sitdown Sunday: Who was the real Marilyn Monroe?

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Life as Lisa Simpson

An interview with Yeardley Smith, the voice behind Lisa Simpson.

(The Ringer, approx 16 mins reading time)

“I don’t think that you can play a part this long and not meld with that alter ego,” Smith says from a comfy couch in her living room. “I always say, thank God she’s such a beautiful, brilliant, funny, compassionate, thoughtful, curious person. If I had to meld with Mr. Burns for the last 30-plus years, I think I would be a different person, you know?”

2. The disputed Lucian Freud

The story of a painting alleged to be by the famous British artist, and the quest to prove it’s real. 

(The New Yorker, approx mins reading time)

 The bankruptcy office had attached an estimate of five hundred thousand Swiss francs (about three hundred and fifty thousand dollars) to the work. At the time, a recognized Freud portrait of a named sitter could fetch three times that amount. Omar asked his contact to hold it back, as one of the final lots of the sale, so that the room would be quieter. On the afternoon of March 7th, Omar bought the painting for less than a hundred thousand Swiss francs, or seventy thousand dollars. He also picked up one of di Camillo’s side tables, a lampshade, and a bronze sculpture in the style of Giacometti.

3. The marriage sabbatical

Would you take one?

(The Guardian, approx 10 mins reading time)

Walden traced the marriage sabbatical way back, and across the Atlantic: Americans have this longstanding habit of the wife going out of town for the summer, and the husband staying home to work and have an affair, hence the Seven Year Itch. My mother used to say that the happiest marriages were those where one person was in the navy because then you were off-shift longer than you were on. I have since met a few naval couples and they were uniformly miserable, but that is another story. These models from the past don’t meet the criteria because if one person is still looking after the kids, it is really only a sabbatical for the other.

4. Postpartum in America

There is no statutory paid maternity leave in the USA. Here’s the experiences of a diverse group of women for one month after giving birth.

(Glamour, approx 30 mins reading time)

The hardest part right now is money. I’ve never not worked, but I took severance from my job a month back, and the money is coming to depletion. I’ve worked really hard to buy a house of my own—for myself, but also for my kids. I don’t want to risk that. And I don’t mean to cry. Maybe because I’m saying it out loud? After this month or two, I’m probably just going to start back working.

5. The last days of Anthony Bourdain

A new unauthorised biography about the famous TV star’s life is causing ructions.

(The New York Times, approx 10 mins reading time)

Drawing on more than 80 interviews, and files, texts and emails from Mr. Bourdain’s phone and laptop, the journalist Charles Leerhsen traces Mr. Bourdain’s metamorphosis from a sullen teenager in a New Jersey suburb that his family couldn’t afford to a heroin-shooting kitchen swashbuckler who struck gold as a writer and became a uniquely talented interpreter of the world through his travels. Mr. Leerhsen said in an interview that he wanted to write a book without the dutiful sheen of what he called “an official Bourdain product.” 

6. The real Marilyn?

A look at the question: who is the real Marilyn Monroe?

(Smithsonian Magazine, approx 14 mins reading time)

Film historian Michelle Vogel, author of Marilyn Monroe: Her Films, Her Life, echoes this view. “I don’t think there was a ‘real’ Marilyn Monroe,” says Vogel in an interview. “She was a character and a persona to be played, both on and off the screen. At the heart of it all, Marilyn Monroe was still Norma Jeane. … When she acted a part, it was Norma Jeane, playing Marilyn Monroe, playing said role. Not easy.”


Fan of the reality show Below Deck? Here’s a piece from 2020 about life behind the scenes.

(The New York Times, approx 16 mins reading time)

Those who have never seen “Below Deck,” “Below Deck Mediterranean” or “Below Deck Sailing Yacht,” and who do not wish to spend the rest of their lives glued to Bravo’s flotation-themed programming, must never, ever watch even one minute of either program, for the “Below Deck” franchise lures in viewers with the pitiless ease of sirens summoning sailors to hurl their ships against the sun-warmed Grecian coast.

Note: The Journal generally selects stories that are not paywalled, but some might not be accessible if you have exceeded your free article limit on the site in question.

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