I’ve never read from manuscript pages before, and it’s a vulnerable feeling. The heft of a printed book gives me a feeling of security. Yet there is some advantage of reading from such a vulnerable place, although I was glad the audience was made up largely of old friends.
And, since my biography won’t be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux until October 2018, I’m aware of some frustration on the part of my would-be readers who have been waiting a long time for the book itself to appear.
Reading the new prologue, an invigorating sketch of Doris the intrepid swimmer, and the introduction, which describes my one meeting decades ago with Doris Duke, interested my listeners. Part of my chapter about her father, James Buchanan Duke, and his creation of what became the monopoly British-American Tobacco Company, the source of Doris’ fortune, was less interesting to my primarily female audience. Few of us have the experience of creating a fortune.
For Doris, the results of the fortune are ambiguous. She would often find herself like the little girl in New York, facing the bull of corporate power, the almost entirely male, then as now, boards of the companies and foundations with which she was, inevitably, involved. I doubt if she ever stood with her hands on her hips, smiling defiantly at corporate power. She tended to stay hidden in that context, feeling unable to effect the decisions being made, which is often the way a token woman in a male gathering feels.
But I know she would have enjoyed seeing the little girl confronting the bull, and perhaps even would have imagined that in time to come, women as well as girls would learn to stand, hand on hips, smiling defiantly at authority.
[The full audio of my reading is now available for download or listening online.]