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The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright Paperback – 1 Aug 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; Reprint edition (Aug. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312424922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312424923
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.3 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,078,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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 thoughNathan'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)


"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)


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)""

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.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It is a very long time since I have been so enthralled and submerged into a biography as I became when reading Jean Nathan's; 'The secret life of the lonely doll'.
Dare Wright, whom I knew very little about before, is now on my list of favourites. Not so much because of her children's books as such, even though they are a huge part of whom she was, but mostly because of the mysterious, complex and tragic person behind the glamorous facade. I would say Dare Wright are close to be the female Peter Pan.
Jean Nathan has opened the door to a very lonely and highly talented woman, that created her own fantasy world and lived in it. Her story somehow refuses to leave my mind, even though it is more than six months since I read it.
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Format: Paperback
This is the most intriguing and fascinating book I have read. Dare Wright was an extremely beautiful, talented and creative woman who defied convention in many ways and lived life on her own terms, for better or worse.This individuality was no doubt fostered by an equally talented mother who supported herself by creating society portraits of notable and wealthy people. If this were not enough, Dare's brother, as handsome as Dare was lovely, managed to live entirely from the proceeds of an invention. These two women were able to survive independently of men in an age when women were little more than appendages to a husband. Needing no more than each other and their creativity, they lived a co-dependent existence found puzzling by friends and onlookers. Curiosity was further heightened by the fact that, despite many suitors the beautiful and alluring Dare remained single all her life. However, this private idyll was not to last, when separation and loneliness had the final word. I can't believe that a documentary has not been made about this remarkable family, especially considering the film footage available shot by Dare herself. Nathan's wonderful book leaves me longing to know more...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gift for a friend - she very much enjoyed it, being a fan of the author.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars 89 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great intro to a complex and fascinating person 19 Aug. 2016
By M. D. Tilley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The story of Dare Wright and her circle of family and friends is fascinating look into the world of artists, privileged people, and lonely people. The story is well-told, and sad at all points. (Dare almost reminded me of Marilyn Monroe, though the family and romantic interests were opposite.) I wish it would have included more photographs of the images described, and more focused prose where the books plots were concerned. I was left wanting more. Overall, if you have any interest in the "Lonely Doll" books and their author, this is a must-read!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and Compelling Portrait of an Exploited Life 11 April 2011
By Sturdy Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'd been wanting to read this biography for a while because of Wright's work and my interest in women and creativity. Encouraged by both the negative, as well as positive reviews, I dug in at last. I ended up wanting to know even more about Dare Wright's inner life and thoughts. Alas, they were all too squelched as she clung to a mother who defined the essence of toxic and exploitative. Nathan documents their enmeshment clearly and compellingly throughout this book, which to my mind is not psychologizing, as much as showing character through action--the essence of great writing.

In spite of and perhaps sadly because of this maternal hunger for the spotlight and the resulting relationship (Edie makes Mama Rose look like Mother Theresa), the story of Edith and the Bears emerged from Dare's imagination. Her Lonely Doll tells the story of a blessedly motherless family with a doll who seems as mischievous, impulsive, playful and willful as Dare might have wanted to have been had her mother let her live her own life. Instead, she declines into old age after her mother dies. The nude photos of Dare in the book, which were mostly taken by Edie, the absence of a sex life (although she was a victim of sexual assault in her older years) are shocking only to those readers who demand saints. Dare was neither saint, nor did she have a chance to be a sinner or even seem to know how to be. How sad.

Nathan's role, as truth-telling Greek chorus and even occasional caregiver by the book's end gives the story even more punch and poignancy. One wonders what Dare's life would have been like if she had had a champion, a mentor, a gal pal who would've stood up to Edie (her brother Blaine tried, but had his own problems). For her, the desire to please, to comply was twisted into servitude--in this case a woman, her mother, not a man is the culprit. Recommended reading to those readers who question how such a relationship can exist, and who do want to delve into the psychology of this kind of relationship: 1) Phyllis Chesler's Woman's Inhumanity to Woman and 2) Christine Lawson's Borderline Mother. That Nathan gives voice to this remarkable human being and shares her life as well as her achievements with us is a tribute to her subject. And again, quite readable.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I am glad that I learned about this book and read it 10 Aug. 2014
By Karen from Maryland - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a very odd book ... not because of the author, but because of the subject matter. The mother from Hell, although I don't think it was all completely intentional. Weird symbiotic relationship that had to be uber-oppressive for Dare Wright. Even more ghastly was the life that her brother led, due to the flawed people who were his (and hers) parents. It is fascinating, but creepy. I am glad that I learned about this book and read it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terribly poignant & far stranger than any fiction 29 July 2009
By OwlSong - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's a sad truth that many classic children's tales are born of childhood wounds. The artist struggles to cope with loss, with pain, with the lack of something nourishing & vital; and in that struggle creates the sort of book that resonates & lingers with readers into adulthood. This seems especially so with Dare Wright, creator of the Lonely Doll series in the 1950s & 1960s, who lived a life of extended illusion that inevitably frayed & became a diaphanous shroud of sorts by the time of her death.

The roots of this life are plain to see: a shattered family; an eccentric, needy & possessive mother; and a desperate longing for the reassurance of a missing father & a denied brother. Even so, a psychological analysis of Dare Wright seems to fall short of fully explaining the mystery of her life ... outwardly a woman of austere, virginal, almost androgynous beauty; inwardly a little girl lost in a lovely but suffocating fairytale. Mere clinical labels don't do this otherworldly child-woman justice, however accurate they may be.

The photographs of Dare are fascinating & revealing, in that so few of them are spontaneous. Many are obviously staged, of course -- Dare beautifully nude, often in a seascape, sometimes as a sea-creature washed up on shore, with scalloped shells covering her eyes -- yet even in more casual family pictures, she's as posed & poised as the model she was for a time in her life. She always seems to be playing a part ... but perhaps that part seemed more real to her than the messiness of the everyday world.

While she attracted many men, she shied away from anything more than brotherly friendship with them. Sexuality apparently terrified her. At the same time, she slept in the same bed with her mother. Whether this was overtly sexual, or more likely the need of a child afraid to be alone in the dark, is never made clear. The fact that her mother took all those nude photographs of Dare, and that they both enjoyed playing dress-up together, is telling in itself.

And out of all this, she created a series of children's books, illustrated by Dare's carefully composed photographs, featuring the Lonely Doll & her friends, a big stuffed bear & a little stuffed bear. Today the eroticism of these books is irrefutable: the Lonely Doll constantly being spanked, tied to a tree, and so on. But there's an eerie innocence to them as well. Whatever Dare's buried desires & needs, she never seems consciously aware of them. The result is a disquieting, dreamlike world of loneliness & a need for comfort that's never entirely fulfilled.

It would be easy for this biography to have been pathography, gleefully digging up dirt. But author Jean Nathan approaches Dare with a sorrowful empathy, revealing a Galatea without the divine spark of life, a starkly beautiful figure who never had the chance to become quite real. It's a ghost story that truly haunts, always hovering on the edge of horrific, at times unbearably sad, but always aware of the mysterious beauty that was born from this wide-eyed, ultimately solitary soul.

Highly recommended!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read if you love tragic eccentrics like I do! 10 Jan. 2009
By Barry Goub!er - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I never read Wright's books as a kid, as they were marketed to girls and therefore would've been outside of my radar. You don't have to have grown up on her books, however, to be fascinated by her story.
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!
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