Marilyn’s Last Sessions: A Novel

Marilyn’s Last Sessions, a 2006 novel by French author Michel Schneider, about her relationship with psychoanalyst Dr Ralph Greenson, will be published in English on November 3.

The book inspired a 2009 documentary of the same name. While I felt that the film blurred fact and fiction too liberally, Schneider’s novel has, so far, been critically acclaimed. It does concern me, however, that Schneider was inspired by John Miner’s disputed transcripts of tapes supposedly made by Marilyn for Greenson, which have never been found.

Andrew O’Hagan, author of The Life and Times of Maf the Dog and His Friend Marilyn Monroe, describes Marilyn’s Last Sessions as ‘marvellous and insightful, a real vision of human delicacy, and one of the international novels of the year.’

Lisa Appignanesi, who wrote about Marilyn and psychoanalysis in her 2008 book, Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors From 1800, has said that ‘Celluloid meets psychoanalysis in this riveting evocation of Marilyn Monroe’s life and ultimate suicide. As an analyst himself, Michel Schneider’s perceptions about the star’s relations with her last psychoanalyst are astute, and he writes with great flair and insight. Tender, provocative, brimming with perception, this is a novel about both our fascination with celebrity and its inner life.’

Schneider will discuss Marilyn’s Last Sessions with Appignanesi at London’s Freud Museum on November 1 at 7pm. Tickets £10/£7 concessions.

The Doctor and the Misfit

Psychiatrist Dr Ralph Greenson’s unconventional – and ultimately, disastrous – treatment of Marilyn Monroe has long been the subject of speculation. Dr Lucy Freeman – a student of Greenson’s – published Why Norma Jean Killed Marilyn Monroe in 1993, and Luciano Mecacci’s Freudian Slipsincluding a long chapter on Marilyn – was published in English in 2009.

Personally, I found both of these accounts disappointing. However, I can recommend Lisa Appignanesi’s Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors (2009), which contains a very insightful study of Monroe.

Now the New York psychoanalyst and painter, Dr Steven Poser, has written The Misfit, a new essay on the topic, now available as a Kindle Single from Rosetta Books:

‘Greenson essentially adopted Monroe, creating psychic confusion for a vulnerable woman who lacked a sense of belonging in the first place. Poser details how, in eliding the negative aspects of the transference-countertransference matrix, Greenson lost a patient and lost his own way as a clinician.

In addition to discussing this tragic analytic dyad, Poser also shares his thoughts about psychoanalytic writing and research. He argues that then-current psychoanalytic theory did little to aid Greenson, or to help Greenson treat Monroe. That theory did not allow therapists to use their patients’ hateful feelings toward them to help said patients cohere. This important technique was not developed theoretically until the later twentieth century. Poser reminds us, then, that we are in a sense prisoners of contemporary practice, however flawed it may be.’