In Two Stars Paul Theroux explores the significance of two of the twentieth century's most celebrated stars Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.
A quick easy read, comprising 3 pieces on female movie stars - a definition of the 'starlet', a long article detailing Theroux's interviews with Elizabeth Taylor (including an interview with her close friend Michael Jackson) and a very short article on the auctioning of Marilyn Monroe's possessions.
A sense of tragedy runs through the whole book - the dashed hopes of most starlets in their longing for fame, the lost childhoods of Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson, Taylor's many failed marriages, Marilyn Monroe's miserable life and her eventual suicide. At the same time their bizarre lives and the money it generates feels incredibly surreal. Elizabeth Taylor bought Michael Jackson an elephant, Jackson went on tour with two cargo planes, carrying things like arcade games. The pair had a very playful relationship, perhaps trying to reclaim their lost childhoods, and imagine themselves as Peter Pan and Wendy.
Marilyn Monroe's red stiletto's were sold for $21 000; Tommy Hilfiger bought her thrift-shop jeans for $36 500. These were some of the low-priced items. Her sparkly 'Happy Birthday Mr President' dress sold for over a million dollars, the record auction price for a woman's dress. And yet, when Monroe died, she had only $5000 in the bank.
Two Stars reads a bit more like a biography than the study of celebrity in general that I had hoped for (with Taylor and Monroe as case studies), but I enjoyed it nevertheless. I'm from the wrong generation to know much about these stars though, so for someone who lived through their days of iconic fame (or just has a great interest in it), Two Stars would no doubt be an even better read.
-Lauren Smith (goodreads.com)