You can find out more about my next book, working title Doris Duke: The Invention of the New Women, on my dedicated Doris Duke bibliography page.
Of course we don’t really know. So much depends on the publicity, the timing, the events surrounding publication, which may distract the attention of readers.
But I like to think that Doris’ hovering spirit would be pleased to see some tidy, well-heeled, appreciative woman sauntering into one of the delightful, small independent bookstores on the Upper East Side in New York, and asking for “That new biography…”
In my dream, my book with its dashing cover (yet to be decided on) will be lying prominently displayed on a table at the front of the store, along with the other brand new releases. New York bookstores work hard to be up to date, essential in a city where today’s New York Times announces that median apartment prices have now reached one million dollars.
So my biography must shed its rays of glamor, and since Doris knew a great deal about glamor and used it for her own purposes, she would be pleased by that.
Glamor…What a time bomb of a word, inevitably associated in my mind with some kind of fraud, the fraud that paints a withered cheek rose red or hides a broken heart behind a big smile.
In Doris’ case, glamor was not only her best way of expressing herself but almost her only way, other than dance steps and piano tunes.
She didn’t read much, almost never wrote, and the meals and parties she provided for her friends vanished quickly. The gifts she gave to her world, the three great places she created and passed along to the public—Shangri La in Hawaii, Rough Point and the restored colonial town in Newport, Rhode Island, and Duke Farm, the model of conservation techniques in Summerville, New Jersey—have moved away from her personal influence as they become the vehicles for her benefaction. And that is as it should be.
We are left with the photographs, intimations of glamor, as delicate and mysterious as a waft of leftover perfume.
Later on today I’ll walk uptown and stop in front of Doris’ first home, the big white house her father built at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 78th Street. I’ll imagine little Doris in her velvet-collared winter coat, gloves, hat and leather leggings flying down the steps ahead of her governess to get to the paths and lawns of Central Park.