As portrayed in her own words, Marilyn Monroe emerges as thoughtful and accomplished -- not characteristics that most biographies emphasize. She had marvelous taste and could decorate a house or cook a meal with panache. Photographs in this book document her avid reading and her craving for the classics. Her diaries, letters and notes record responses to literature even as they reflect the misspellings and grammatical errors of an earnest but self-educated artist.

Monroe's unstable aspect certainly makes an appearance in this handsomely illustrated volume, complete with facsimiles of her writing. She was beset with self-consciousness so severe it disturbed her concentration while acting and made it difficult for her to manage everyday life. She believed in the efficacy of psychoanalysis, but she was quick to realize that mental institutions often infantilized patients. During her own incarceration (that is how she saw it) at the Payne Whitney Clinic she observed: "Oh, well, men are climbing to the moon but don't seem interested in the beating human heart."

This witty woman, reacting to her acting teacher's complaints about her tardiness, taunted him by reprising her dumb blonde secretary lines from "Monkey Business." Lee Strasberg never got the joke. The Marilyn Monroe of this book was no joke -- to quote a line from Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," "Attention must be paid.