Overview of review:
II.A short freak-out about star-ratings
III.Some musings about the ways we read; close readings; furries
I saw Chandra's review
of The Lonely Doll
go past my feed, and I don't think I've ever logged off of Goodreads so fast so that I could order this and get it right into my hot little hands. My Grandma Dory had a copy of this book at her house when I was a kid, and I was absolutely entranced. When it did finally came in the mail, I had this overwhelming sense of the big room in her basement – a room that had an odd name that I'm saddened to discover I can't remember – sitting under the ping pong table heaped with hand-crocheted afghans to make a fort. The smell of wet concrete, pine forest and dust. Madeleine, baby, madeleine.
I bitch about star-ratings so much that I've become that person at the party that just wants to tell you about their freak obsession with Linux, period-specific model trains, or juggling. But like that poor soul, I can't help myself. My obsessions with star-ratings: let me show you them. Anyway, I decided to go with five, for a number of reasons, but mostly because I'm taking the descriptions of the ratings literally: this is amazing. Younger Ceridwen liked it; but there are aspects that I don't like like crazy. I don't even know what to say about “it was ok”. Sometimes this is a valid description, but this is a crap descriptor. I gave Ulysses
two-stars, because I couldn't say I really liked it, but this is stupid, and I know that. I went looking at one point for a book with an average rating under 3.0 – I'm sure it exists – but because the people who read any given book are self-selecting and tend to be inclined to like that book, such a beast in rare indeed.
This book is incredibly beautiful, sick, and about as personal as it comes. I feel almost voyeuristic reading this, because it's so clearly the unexamined psychosexual output of someone who has been fucked over and fucked over vigorously and repeatedly. I don't like the idea that art comes from trauma, exclusively, that beauty comes from ravagement, but sometimes this is the kind of true that makes you want to chuck it all and cry. The lack of gloss on this story – there's no wink, no nudge, just the outpourings of narrative – makes the whole project ethereal, otherworldly, dreamy in that way that recognizes that dreams turn at a moment into nightmare. Just to be a douchebag, I quote Yeats, from “Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop”:
A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.
The book starts with the eponymous lonely doll, Edith, looking out into a white-washed world, This photo may be the one that I find the most compelling: the way Edith hangs at the edge of the frame, her hand on the doorstop. The world outside is out of focus and blown-out into white. The focus is on Edith, but the unresolved world-at-large takes up most of the frame. The world is all potential and longing. Edith's prayers for friends are answered, and Mr. Bear and Little Bear come to live in her world. Mr. Bear is the kindly authoritarian; Little Bear her furry id friend. They have adventures, and the photos of these adventures just hum with menace, danger, and wish-fulfillment, with little girlness that has a edge to it. I went looking for an image to post into the review, but I couldn't find anything but covers and the infamous spanking scene:
The spanking scene comes after Edith and Little Bear have found a room in the house – more dream imagery! I'm not the only one who has dreams of finding a lost room, right? - and they play dress up and write all over the mirror (OMG) in lipstick (OMG): Mr. Bear is just a silly old thing. Mr. Bear finds them and then spanking ensues. I kind of don't want to get into a whole thing about spanking and children and all that – really I don't – but I can't help saying that this kind of image is where furries are born, my friends, and parents have no one to blame but themselves when they spank their kids and expect this not to boil into a stew of sexual fetishes. (Ooops, that was a little harsh. Don't flame me!)
But, but, seriously, but so often people flip out about these kind of images and what they might do to children, and, using only my admittedly non-scientific anecdotal experience as a barometer, I find that argument totally false. These images are compelling because they are real, because they come from a unique experience. I grabbed this book and pulled it down when my friend Annie came over for dinner this week – hi Annie! - and we both completely flipped about how much we loved it as girls, how we responded to the girlishness, and completely didn't understand the sick that was the subtext. The Lonely Doll
is barking mad, and I couldn't exactly call it honest because it doesn't know itself, but it's as real as it comes, and all the more compelling because there's a beauty to the sickness, a sickness to the beauty, which is based on the elusive animal of character. This is a story that only Dare Wright could have created, and the meticulousness with which she catalogs her specific damage is both beautiful and strange.
I also became aware, because of the wonder of Goodreads, of a biography of Wright
that I almost want to take a look at, despite my zzzzz with biographies in general. Also, thanks to Jessica Treat's review
, I have been reminded that Grandma Dory must have have had the sequel in the bookshelves, the one where Edith gets covered with leaves in some kind of naked fairy experience, and I'm going to have to log off again to order this, because the image is so palpable I feel I could touch it.