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The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll


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About the Author

Jean Nathan graduated from Williams College and the Columbia School of Journalism. She was a staff writer for The New York Observer and a senior editor at Connoisseur magazine. She has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Travel & Leisure, Vogue, and other publications. She lives in New York City.


In The Lonely Doll (1957) and eight subsequent picture books, Dare Wright recounted the adventures of lonely doll Edith and her family of stuffed bears. This series illustrated by Wright's striking black-and-white photographs captured children's imaginations and made the one-time model a household name. In this compelling psychological biography, journalist Nathan explores the dark fairy tale that Wright actually lived. Born to a wastrel film critic father and a well-known artist mother, Wright was a child of divorce. Her mother, unable to cope with her son, abandoned him to relatives and took off with Dare. Edith Wright controlled her daughter, turning her into a puppet and a project. Marred by this unhealthy relationship, Dare did not so much create the world of Edith the doll as live through it, escaping into the realm of her imagination rather than facing reality. Nathan's meticulously researched, well-documented biography is not easy going, but it illuminates Wright's tangled and tragic life, work, and times. Recommended for public libraries. Neal Wyatt, Chesterfield Cty. P.L., Richmond, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Sept. 2) FYI: The Lonely Doll and two of its sequels have been reissued by Houghton Mifflin. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Although I never read The Lonely Doll as a child or saw Dare Wright's photographs, it's as if I somehow 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

"Splendid...Nathan's detective work is admirable as is the care with which she traces Wright's psychic decay. Even readers who never felt Edith's spell will be captivated--and perhaps, unsettled--by this modern gothic tale." --Michelle Green, People (4 stars)

"Compelling psychological biography...Nathan's meticulously researched, well-documented biography...illuminates Wright's tangled and tragic life, work and times." --Neal Wyatt, Library Journal

"[Nathan's] sympathetic, graceful style seems appropriate for this private, elusive figure who kept such porous boundaries between her real and imaginary worlds." --Joy Press, The Village Voice

"Thoroughly engrossing, and fans of The Lonely Doll series will want to read her terrific--and terrifically disturbing--life story...Readers of this dark and haunting biography will never be able to look at The Lonely Doll books, or their author, in quite the same way again." --Rebecca Maksel, San Francisco Chronicle

"A probing and profound new Ms. Nathan's sensitive hands, Wright's fate takes on a certain fluttering romance--an indignant poetry." --Alexandra Fuller, The New York Observer

"Nathan's dexterous writing sees around the corners of Dare Wright's life to show that behind 0her perhaps perverse books was a childlike effort at life that was both futile and bold." --Benjamin Lyntal, The New York Sun

"Sensational though Nathan's subject matter is...she never descends into exploitation. Her deft handling of these horrors recalls David and Albert Maysles' 1976 documentary Grey Gardens." --L D Beghtol, Time Out (New York)

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