- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (August 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312424922
- ISBN-13: 978-0312424923
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 92 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright Paperback – July 14, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
In 1957, The Lonely Doll made model/actress turned author/photographer Dare Wright famous. The children's book told the story of Edith, a lonely doll until two teddy bears—a father and son—come to live with her. This dark and painfully poignant biography, tells the story of the beautiful and creative Dare (1914–2001), who was separated from her own father and brother when she was three. Alone with her strong-willed, manipulative mother, Edie, Dare strove to please her, Nathan writes, "playing handmaiden to Edie's queen as Edie created their own private universe" of dressup and pretend. Their closeness becomes increasingly disturbing, keeping Dare a child even as she matures into womanhood. There's a suggestion by some who knew them of a sexual element in the relationship, but Nathan is careful not to speculate. With Edie's death near the end of the book the story loses some of its clarity, because despite having many friends, Dare doesn't know how to live without her mother; the downward spiral of her final years is horrifying yet incomprehensible. But this is a quibble, and doesn't detract from the fascinating and elusive girl/woman at the center of this story. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
-- Mark Singer, Author of Somewhere in America and staff writer, The New Yorker
"Jean Nathan has given us a haunting portrait of a haunted and heartbreaking creative life. Here is proof, if ever any was needed, that the children's books that last are those born not of lovely thoughts but of childhood's innermost necessities."-Leonard S. Marcus, author of Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon
"Reads like a novel, and a Gothic one at that, full of outsized characters, an evocatively drawn backdrop, and with a strange and compelling mystery at its heart."-Meg Wolitzer, author of The Wife
"A beguiling piece of detective work, which itself makes for a kind of fairy tale."-Stacy Schiff, author of Vera
"Although I never read The Lonely Doll as a child or saw Dare Wright's photographs, it's as if somehow I did. Nathan has done an amazing job to capture Wright's life on the page and to bring us into the household of one of the saddest dysfunctional families ever."-Cindy Sherman
"An evocative, amazing biography."-Jacki Lyden, author of Daughter of the Queen of Sheba
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Springing from the classic background of a handsome but weak-willed, ne'er-do-well and alcoholic father, paired to an ambitious, talented and frustrated mother, Wright was fated to lead an abnormal life. Indeed, she proved unable to relate to men in any way approaching normal, her intense, almost incestuous relationship with her handsome brother Blaine (from whom she was forcibly separated by her mother when a toddler; they were reunited as adults) balanced by her oddly sexless relationship and half-hearted, eventually broken engagement to Philip Sandeman, an RAF flyer and Blaine's WWI buddy. Nevertheless, her beauty and artistic talents, inherited from her mother, a successful portrait painter, gained her a career as a fashion model, photographer, and ultimately author and photographic illustrator of classic children's books. But constantly hovering over Wright's life was the intimidating, smothering figure of Edith, her mother, who alternately neglected and fawned over her daughter, ultimately making her so emotionally dependent that her death sent Wright into an emotional tailspin from which she never recovered.
Wright's story is thus the stuff of fine Gothic melodrama and would make an absorbing Lifetime movie. While it is true that some of the plot elements and motifs that run through the "Lonely Doll" books and "Lona: A Fairy Tale" (still sadly out of print) are more understandable in light of her existence, I'm not sure I gained much else from reading about this life. There is a uncomfortably voyeuristic element to examining these frequently glamorous but emotionally warped people that even Nathan's tasteful prose and obvious sympathy for her subject can't quite overcome. Ultimately, as with many other artists whose ability to create their own worlds exceeded their ability to cope with the real one, it is a more appropriate homage to the memory of Dare Wright to enjoy and treasure her work.
For all the yammering we hear these days about the "repressive, straight-laced" 50s, it says something for the era that work as defiantly odd as Wright's got published, let alone met with such huge commercial success. It is also apparent that Wright's background fueled an imagination that would now be drained out of her by exposure to television, anti-depressant drugs, and therapy...some "progress" we've made!
The fact that Wright's books unnerve today's over-protective killjoy parents is reason enough to keep them in print. Wright deserves to be remembered. I'd also like to see a book of her self-portraits; the few reprinted in this book must just be scratching the surface! There are 40s/50s-era photos here that could've easily have been on the cover of an early Roxy Music album!