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The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright (2004)

av Jean Nathan

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygDiskussioner
2881168,825 (4.09)Ingen/inga
In 1957, a children's book calledThe Lonely Doll was published. With its pink-and-white-checked cover and photographs featuring a wide-eyed doll, it captured the imaginations of young girls and made the author, Dare Wright, a household name. Close to forty years after its publication, the book was out of print but not forgotten. When the cover image inexplicably came to journalist Jean Nathan one afternoon, she went in search of the book--and ultimately its author. Nathan found Dare Wright living out her last days in a decrepit public hospital in Queens, New York. Over the next five years, Nathan pieced together Dare Wright's bizarre life of glamour and painful isolation to create this mesmerizing biography of a woman who struggled to escape the imprisonment of her childhood through her art.… (mer)
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If you were a girlchild of the 1950s, The Lonely Doll was on your nightstand. It told the story in pictures of Edith, a glamorous doll living on her own, who is befriended by two teddy bears, Mr. Bear and Little Bear, and they become a family. There was always something creepily fascinating about it, maybe the fact that since the illustrations were all photos, I took it as fact, as opposed to books with drawings, which meant fiction to me. There was also the shock of seeing Edith, with her grown-up hoop earrings , getting spanked by Mr. Bear, neither of which, the spanking nor the earrings, had never happened to me. Somehow The Lonely Doll always haunted me, and I was not alone. Jean Nathan, the author, tried tracking down the book in the early '90s and ended up finding the author, Dare Wright, as well, right before her death by alcoholism. Researching Dare's background, she learned that her parents, Edith and Ivan, separated early on in their marriage, with Ivan keeping custody of older son Blaine and daughter Dare living with Edith. The children were not allowed to contact each other until after Ivan's death, as adults. Edith was a renowned society portrait artist based in Cleveland, and she and Dare were inseparable, sleeping in the same bed until Dare moved to New York and became a model and a photographer. Edith resented Blaine and he despised his mother for ignoring him and keeping the siblings apart. Dare was unable to form romantic or sexual attachments due to Edith's demands for all of her time and attention. Edith was a monster in the mode of another mother/daughter symbiotic hellish matchup, Edith (!) and Little Edie Beall of Grey Gardens fame. This is a fascinating study of the outcome of maternal selfishness, and Dare's success as an author and photographer did little to make for a happy or fulfilling life. ( )
  froxgirl | Jun 20, 2020 |
Kinda nothing happens in this book but I still loved it. ( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
I've never read any Dare Wright, but this biography looked interesting. Dare was a haunted woman, mostly withdrawn from the world except for her troubling relationship with her mother and brother. She spends most of her time photographing herself and her mother, a noted society portrait artist, in various costumes and creating a world for them to live in. Her personal relationships were few, most people being put off by her doll companion, Edith.. A favorite from her childhood, Dare plays out her childish fantasies with Edith and eventually made a bestselling children's series out of it. Dare seems to have had little interest in developing personal relationships.

There's something left out of this story, something the biographer couldn't find any evidence of, or something Dare herself asked be suppressed. It takes more than a suffocating mother to create someone as damaged as Dare Wright. There is her lost fiance, but the circumstances as told don't explain how the rest of her life turned out, and the signs were there during their courtship in any case. The story of her life, and that of her parents and her brother, was interesting beyond doubt, but without the missing pieces the biography felt shallow. Nathan did a lot of theorizing and diagnosing herself, but wasn't convincing. The fact that I'm speculating in my head about what was the matter with "that poor woman" instead of thinking about her accomplishments says not-too-great things about the author and myself. Way to drag me into the sordid details and then not give me enough of them!

....Anyway, Dare's art, reproduced throughout the book, along with references to her writing, add to the story and leave the reader curious to check them out, but on the whole I wasn't too impressed. My husband's remembers the books fondly from when he was a kid and checking them out from the library so I have an excuse to pick them up, a few have enjoyed reissues recently. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Dare Wright was the author of "The Lonely Doll" books. Dare's life is fascinatingly glamorous, tragic and odd. Her dysfunctional upbringing created a grown virginal woman unable to form intimate, sexual relationships with men, preferring that they act more as her playmates. She and brother Blaine, who were separated by their divorced parents when they were very young, reunited as adults but their relationship was a confused combination of romantic love and childlike play. Dare's mother Edie, although indifferent to her children when they were young, went on to form a tight, oppressive and somewhat inappropriate relationship with her daughter. Dare's life was so tied to her mother that upon Edie's death, her own life fell apart. You can't help but feel sorry for a woman who was never permitted or encouraged to be independent and reach her emotional potential. ( )
1 rösta Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
What made me pick up a second-hand copy of Jean Nathan's The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll I can't recall. But, after reading the prologue, I stopped at the local library branch and checked out four of Dare Wright's children's books.

As a child, I had never read the stories of Edith, a doll who is lonely until the arrival of Mr. Bear and Little Bear. Edith and Little Bear pursue mischief and adventure that often finishes with Edith's rear-end over Mr. Bear's knee. The text is simple, but the photographs are not. Dare diligently posed Edith, often in hand-made clothes, and her teddy bear friend in complex environments that were both fantasy and real. To look at Edith, with her blonde hair and heavy bangs, sideways glance, and absent smile, you might think of a classic girls' toy. But once you know the life of her owner, you see Dare Wright in plastic and felt - her anxiety, childhood absences, and sexual hesitation finally manifested.

Edith gets spanked by Mr. Bear (while Little Bear watches) in The Lonely Doll
Nathan's fascinatingly rich biography brings intimacy between Dare and the reader. To highlight Dare's life in a few sentences will leave out the emotional tenderness and bizarre passions that Nathan captures. However, an overview will reveal new meanings in Dare's strangely dark children's stories.

Her mother was Edie Stevenson Wright, a famous portrait painter who was serious about her ego and more serious about her looks. Dare had an older brother Blaine, who disappeared from her and her mother's life when Dare was just 3. As a child with few friends, Dare proved herself to be as artistic as her mother, and even more beautiful. More than anything in life, Dare wanted to please her mother, a goal she would maintain until Edie's death.

In her twenties, Dare dabbled in theater and modeling, but with little success and certainly without passion. Longing for family, Dare set out to find her brother. When the two reconnected, Dare's passion was ignited. Their love was both familial and romantic; Nathan's elaboration of their relationship leaves the reader uncomfortable. Dare became engaged to a friend of Blaine's, though never went through with the wedding and never made any effort at relationships outside of those with her brother and mother.

Dare finally found career comfort behind the camera, as a fashion photographer and then as a children's book author. Her first book, The Lonely Doll, was a huge success, though the spanking scene made some wonder. In all, Dare wrote and photographed 19 children's books, most of them with doll Edith as the main character. In these books, she also found friendship - particularly in Edith and Little Bear. Dare seemed to participate in the real world of adults through her children's toys' staged escapades.

playing dress-up in Edith and Little Bear Lend a Hand
Common themes in Dare's fantasy books parallel her real life paranoia and anxieties. Edith, named for Dare's mother, is lonely and desperate for a friend. When she finally finds one, it's not another doll, but a teddy bear, adorable but masculine, kind-hearted but stubborn. Their friendship echos Dare's relationship with her brother. Edith and Little Bear often play dress up, an enjoyable past-time for Dare and her mother, who often photographed these play sessions. As a consequence of misbehaving, Edith often ended up angering Mr. Bear - the father she never knew. Mr. Bear would threaten leaving and Edith would beg forgiveness with an almost sadomasochistic tinge. A good spanking and some stern words to behave, or else, are followed by tears and hugs that end the story. ( )
1 rösta librarianshannon | Oct 23, 2011 |
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My childhood bends beside me. Too far for me to lay a hand there once or lightly. Mine is far and his secret as our eyes. Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned. --James Joyce, Ulysses
Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered. --W.H. Auden, "The Dyer's Hand"
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Prologue: It was on the first day of spring that the oddest image floated into my mind: the cover of a children's book I hadn't seen or even thought of in over thirty years.
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In 1957, a children's book calledThe Lonely Doll was published. With its pink-and-white-checked cover and photographs featuring a wide-eyed doll, it captured the imaginations of young girls and made the author, Dare Wright, a household name. Close to forty years after its publication, the book was out of print but not forgotten. When the cover image inexplicably came to journalist Jean Nathan one afternoon, she went in search of the book--and ultimately its author. Nathan found Dare Wright living out her last days in a decrepit public hospital in Queens, New York. Over the next five years, Nathan pieced together Dare Wright's bizarre life of glamour and painful isolation to create this mesmerizing biography of a woman who struggled to escape the imprisonment of her childhood through her art.

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