My latest book, The Silver Swan: In Search of Doris Duke will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on April 7, 2020.
This is the first serious literary biography of a complex woman, the greatest woman philanthropist of the twentieth century, based on her extensive archive at Duke University in Durham, NC.
Quoting from hundreds of letters she received during her lifetime, including spectacular news and fashion photographs, this biography will present for the first time the real Doris Duke, the woman so few people ever really knew and who was often misunderstood and even denigrated. From the genesis of her father James Buchan Duke’s fortune—founded on the perfection of the Bonsack cigarette rolling machine and the advertising campaign that spread smoking across the world—through her own spectacular achievements as a donor, collector, fashion icon and international traveller, this biography will map the extraordinary journey of an extraordinary woman who set the pace for women achievers in the twenty-first century…
Posts on The Silver Swan: In Search of Doris Duke:
Memorial Day, commenced in 1866 as Decoration Day, was at first specifically meant to honor the Confederate dead; when it became a national holiday in 1921, it was renamed to honor the dead in all our wars, another effort to erase differences and commodify mourning.
The long waits publishing entrails always make me wonder why writers sometimes refer to their new books as their children; surely no pregnancy lasts two years or more, and few professional writers wait to see their next book launched before laboring mightily to begin the next one.
Posts on/about Doris Duke:
My chapters about Doris’ war-time service are some of the most revealing, and most controversial, in my upcoming biography.
Almost the only question people asked me about her is, “Did Doris Duke marry her butler?” No, she did not. But does that question really matter, in a long, complex and accomplished life?
If there is a chance, and I think there is one, that Doris was touched and perhaps even changed by her connection, whatever it may prove to have been, with the Self-Realization Fellowship, her miseries would have been if not reduced, placed in a realistic context, uniting her with her fellows.
“Doing good” has always been associated with that look which is why Doris Duke, mysterious, unpredictable, may turn out to be an interesting subject for my next book. Already I gather that she “did good” without caring much about it or dreaming of wearing “do good” clothes.