I went to the library with a specific title to pick up but then I saw the book next to it and thought that looked better. I was looking for the Dolly Parton memoir but ended up with Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters. I don’t regret this.
As the title suggests, the majority of the book is transcripts of interviews Dolly Parton has given starting in 1967 and running through 2014. Most come from major publications like Playboy, Rolling Stone, and Ladies Home Journal. The interviews cover both her personal and professional lives, and you get a good idea of her presentation of herself, her voice, as well as other people. I think the other people filter is a good thing because it helps focus the narratives a little. Sometimes when someone tells their own story, the narrative can get a little lost or gets a little too one-sided, and this way, through interviews, you get both the subject but also some perspective.
I already had some general knowledge of Dolly’s career and story, although there’s a lot of detail in here that I didn’t know which made it worth the read. For example, I knew the story of how and why she originally wrote “I Will Always Love You”, but not that Elvis had tried to get the rights to record it. I knew she’d grown up poor and does a lot of philanthropy now in her hometown area, but hadn’t realized just how much real estate she owns all over the country.
I have to admit, I wasn’t all that interested in her music, which is another reason I think the interview collection was a better idea. I was surprised at just how much of a song-writer she has been, but not so much by the genre shifting and tv-movie stuff.
The other bit of this book that keeps things interesting is that the interviews often have some preface by the original interviewer, and in-between there are occasional “Dolly Diamond”s which come from other interviews not presented in full but excerpt something particularly note-worthy or illustrative of or about Dolly.
The only thing that still has me wondering is that Dolly herself says all the time apparently about how her presentation of herself in public is a presentation, but it’s also really her. Obviously interviews are part of the public persona, but when she gets into some of the more personal things like depression and eating disorder, there’s a bit of a mis-match. I get trying to present a celebrity as a real person, but with the near constant emphasis on how she both performs a public self that is still also really her, I have to wonder. I also get that celebrities might want some privacy, but if you’re going to share something about yourself and repeat that as a part of your brand, the personal-public distinction could in some ways be more direct or clear, at least for me. In the case of the book, part of that comes from the editor and the interviewers, but some of it appears to be Dolly as well. Maybe it’s also that there’s a good bit of repetition; at least half of the interviews bring up her childhood circumstances for example, and while that’s obviously both true and part of the mythos, maybe after a while I don’t need to see that info for the _th time in a new context.
In any case, if you’re interested in Dolly Parton’s story with a bit of filtering, then this might be a good option.