Perhaps you have seen Dare Wright's children's books. If you had, you would remember. They are unforgettable, even if you try to forget. The strange, melancholy, and sometimes sexually creepy black and white images of a beautiful, lonely, blonde doll and the two teddy bears that come to live with her have been a touchstone for female artists from Kim Gordon to Anna Sui. Their creator, model turned photographer Wright lived a lonely life as well, suffocated by a mother who infantilized her and kept her dependent, she nonetheless found a way to tell her story, perhaps without even knowing she was doing so. If you are a fan of Grey Gardens, or of the different kinds of voices found in woman's art, The Secret Life of a Lonely Doll is worth your time.— From Lynda’s Picks
In 1957, a children's book called The 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.
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.
“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 biography...in 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)