Tucked between the eclectic selection of books on our shelves is a curious and Lonely Doll. I cannot recall what strange reason I had to buy this book. It must have been quite a strong impulse as I actually find dolls creepy at the best of times. But buy it I did, and have since spent many moments leafing through the pages pondering, pondering, pondering on the tale narrated with photos and words before me.
Dare Wright, the creator of the curious world of The Lonely Doll, composes a compelling book that once you have ventured into it, cannot completely leave it. It stays with you. It haunts you. However if we push the creepy overtones to one side for a moment, there is beauty here, it may be tinged with sadness and strangeness but as the eloquent Poe said;
“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.”
As with many tales that we encounter in life, behind each tale is a tale even more fascinating. Like a magic box, one hides within and around the other, and so it is the same with the story of the author and photographer herself.
Dare Wright was a successful model before she took up her camera and went freelance. Her work appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and other well known publications. Then one day, Dare rediscovered ‘Edith’, the felt Lenci doll that her mother had given her when she was child. She restyled her with a blonde wig, gold hoop earrings and made her a pink and white gingham outfit. She begun to photograph the doll along with two teddy bears in an array of carefully arranged tableaus that she would accompany with brief narrative. The book was published in 1957 and it was hugely successful, bringing Dare much critical acclaim for her work. The doll is named Edith, after Dare’s mum. Which hints at possible parallels between their stories. Dare’s personal story is one of a broken family, abandonment, loneliness and tremendous sadness joined with emotional and mental struggle. Naturally, elements of all this meanders into her books.
It is tempting to analyse her books in light of her biography but that is not something I feel comfortable doing. Instead, I am pleased that I have a copy of The Lonely Doll with all its questionable moments in my collection. Depending on my mood, it can be an unsettling read but I cannot deny that it is as original as it is compelling and as mesmerising as its mysterious and very beautiful author.
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Pursue photos of Dare Wright and read more about her HERE
“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” The resulting biography can be bought HERE