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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Accidentally Dirty Kids' Book Roundup, Featuring The Lonely Doll

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 7:30 AM

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Your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from Golden State thrift stores, estate sales, and flea markets.

The Lonely Doll

Author: Dare Wright, story and photography
Date: 1957
Publisher: Doubleday
Discovered at: Half Price Books, Concord
The Cover Promises: Only a hint of the tense erotic toy-thriller contained within.

Representative Quote:

"I may be a silly," Mr. Bear answered, "but I know when a naughty little girl needs a spanking."

Having once witnessed a couple of twelve-year-olds fall down laughing at the phrase "old glory waving in the wind," your Crap Artist understands that kids have developed a heroic ability to discern all the the hilarious ways that innocent things can seem dirty. Like any adaptive trait, this is a response to environmental factors, especially here in America, where for our entire history we've been asked to pretend that nothing but godly calmness stirred  beneath the settlers' pantaloons.

So, pubescent kids quite naturally giggle any time randiness bursts through someplace it shouldn't, like on wonderfully clueless book covers like this one:

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So, before we get to The Lonely Doll, a lurid dolly-teddy daddy-issue likely to leave you shaken and spent, here's a couple more kids' books whose covers I find almost touchingly clueless.
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Only the hardest of lessons are taught at the "Ding Dong School."

This next one seems to be the second children's book apparently based on LL Cool J lyrics.

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Then there's the dirtiest, most deeply misguided kids' book of them all:


Of course, such books' accidental dirtiness is all on the surface -- simple entendre worth a lul but not much contemplation. That's not the case with Dare Wright's The Lonely Doll, a masterpiece of accidental kink -- and one where that kink might not be entirely accidental.

There's much to admire in author/photographer Wright's works. Feast upon the title page, which looks like a still from a Douglas Sirk film.

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With consummate artistry, this one image establishes Wright's themes -- a well-to-do doll's yearning for connection and the fascinating bustle of her underskirt -- and sinks us into her doll's sumptuous world.

Wright posed Edith, a real doll from her childhood, in gorgeous, strikingly emotional photos, many of which involve the doll's relationship with a pair of bears Wright purchased at FAO Schwartz. Edith mopes through the first several pages of The Lonely Doll until the bears -- a father and son -- turn up on the front porch of her lavish home. 

Then, this 55-year-old picture book veers toward the NSFW.

The three of them soon enter into what Cinemax might call an "unorthodox arrangement":

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_lonely_doll_liked_bears_at_once.jpg
(Attention, lit majors! Here's a chance to brush up on your Edna St. Vincent Millay!)

In unlikely places they conjugate each other like irregular verbs:

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Perhaps young readers of 1957 didn't recognize the sexual suggestiveness -- accidental or not -- of these images. But older kids might have, especially since the first thing pubescent boys do when alone with dolls is arrange them into funny sex positions.

A best-seller in the fifties and back in print since 1998, The Lonely Doll kicked off a series of almost twenty picture books by Wright, a former fashion model whose work here is perhaps haunted by neurotic autobiography. (A 2004 New York Times piece on a book about Wright was titled, ickily, "The Unsettling Story of Two Lonely Dolls.")

That's not to suggest her life was full of desultory perversions like those hinted at above. But there's something painful in Edith's relationship with those bears, something that suggests submission games:

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_lonely_doll_discipline.jpg

Also, note Edith's line of sight.

Next: Things Get Really Dark

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Alan Scherstuhl


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