My latest book, now titled The Silver Swan: Searching for Doris Duke (working title Doris Duke: The Invention of the New Woman) will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in Spring/Summer 2018.
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 mentioning The Silver Swan: Searching for Doris Duke:
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.
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.
Posts on/about Doris Duke:
Now that my newest book, Mending: New and Selected Short Stories is reaching its readers, I find myself in a rather delightful quandary: Sarabande Books will publish my next book, The Blue Box, a family narrative based on the letters and papers of three of my foremothers, in August, 2014—which seems a lifetime away. As I debate turning my energies in another direction (The Blue Box is virtually finished), I am intrigued by the life of Doris Duke, whose papers have just been opened to the public as part of the Rubenstein Library at Duke University.
Next week, as I begin to unravel the many strands of Doris Duke’s life, preserved in a massive archive at Duke University in Durham, NC, I must work hard to clear away my presumptions, in fact, my prejudices about a woman whose whole history seems, superficially, at least, to have been clouded, or distorted, by scandal.
“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.
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.
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?
My chapters about Doris’ war-time service are some of the most revealing, and most controversial, in my upcoming biography.