Daring to be Wright

During the 1920s, the felt doll Edith was little else than a piece of inventory within the 109/14 Series produced by Italian company Lenci. That was until 1957 when the fashion model turned freelance photographer, Dare Wright, cast the 22-inch doll as the leading character in her new book, sewing Edith’s outfits for the book and changing its eye color to blue to resemble herself. “The Lonely Doll,” replete with black and white images of the blonde-haired, circumspect Edith, made The New York Times bestseller list for children’s books and more or less established Wright as an enigmatic icon of children’s literature.

In “The Lonely Doll Makes New Friends,” Brook Ashley, Brett Wilbur and John Ogilvie revive little Edith in a text that comes off as both sequel to Wright’s works and indeed an homage to the Canadian writer who touched the lives of parents and children and also explored the anthropomorphism of non-living objects.

The following is a short interview with Brook Ashley, who inherited Edith after Wright died in 2001.

Q. How did you know Dare Wright?

A. Dare never married or had children, and I was the closest she had to a daughter. She left me the rights to her books, along with her dolls and bears. It seemed natural that the adventures should continue, so my daughter, husband and I wrote and photographed this new book in the tradition of Dare Wright.

What is the setting of this new story?

“The Lonely Doll Makes New Friends” is photographed entirely in Montecito.

Are Edith and the bears now Montecito residents?

They are, although sadly they have to be confined to a bank vault when they aren’t working.

Do you think having dolls and stuffed animals helps kids identify more with the story?

When you read Dare’s books, and look at the haunting black and white photographs, Edith really seems more of an eight-year-old child than a doll. In the same way, you forget the bears aren’t a father and son. Children identify with Edith’s yearning for a family, Little Bear’s naughtiness, and Mr. Bear’s parental concerns. Those aren’t species specific issues.

How is this book different from Dare Wright’s classics?

I never wanted to copy Dare’s work. It would have been impossible to do so anyway. That’s one reason we shot the new book in color, rather than in Dare’s original black and white.

What ages do you see this book appropriate for? What do you want readers to learn from the book?

We say it’s for ages two to eight, but I get e-mails every day from adults who are thrilled to find a new “Lonely Doll” book. The book carries the subtle message that putting on airs and trying too hard to impress isn’t the way to make friends. Edith may be made of felt, but she has a big heart and learns that being herself is all that’s necessary.

Where can people find copies of this book?

It’s available locally at Tecolote, Chaucer’s and the Vedanta Temple bookshop.

What are your future plans?

We intend to keep writing more “Lonely Doll” books, and I am also consulting on a film about Dare Wright that will be directed by Julian Schnabel. Madame Alexander is producing an Edith character doll, and there are plans to exhibit Dare’s photographs at a major gallery in Paris. I maintain a website about Dare at www.darewright.com, and am writing a biography about her. There’s a potential animated series in the works, and we are bringing out a previously unpublished book by Dare Wright titled, “Make Me Real,” later this year.

Of Local Interest

• In what deservedly could be considered a holiday companion to Shaun Tomson’s heartfelt “Surfing Ethics,” Santa Barbara native and former professional surfer Alexis Cottavoz has amassed more than a decade’s worth of super gloss images and put them in a book. “Shutterspeed” is a rambling compilation of Cottavoz’s voyages through the Earth’s most monolithic landscapes, a time capsule of surfing pipelines, skateboarding half-pipes, extreme sport celebrities, sensual sunsets and scantily clad women.

Cottavoz, a creator of more than two dozen surfing movies, will be on hand at Borders on State Street on November 9, from 1 pm to 3 pm, to sign copies of his new book.

For more info visit www.stormproof.com.

• Ever since moving to Montecito in 1960, Larry Crandell has innovated multiple ways to convince people to give away their money to charity. Most of his methods are revealed in “Silver Tongue: Secrets of Mr. Santa Barbara,” a book written by Crandell’s son, Steven. But the book is just as much a biography of one of Santa Barbara’s most dynamic personalities and a sincere and touching account of a son’s appreciation for his father.

The book is available at select bookstores in the area, including Tecolote Bookshop ion the Upper Village. The Crandells will both appear at Borders on December 13 at 7 pm to sign books and, if you’re lucky, divulge other Crandell secrets that don’t appear in print.

For more info visit www.larrycrandell.com.