As Dolly ages more and more gracefully, she seems to be occupying a more and more precious space in our zeitgeist. A fan, but not a true fan, I have become more enchanted with this current iteration of Dolly Parton, as she seems to have transcended even herself as a human to become something like an aesthetic or vibe. So upon seeing she released a big, glamorous book showcasing her big, glamorous closet, I had to indulge.
A big, beautiful coffee table book, bright pink, our countrytime lord and savior on the front cover. Thick pages, full color photos, and narrated by Dolly herself, with some contributions from members on her styling team. The book was almost just like Dolly herself- robust, delightfully tangible and campy.
I think, much like when I listen to interviews with her, I want to know HER. But we never get the satisfaction; Dolly knows how to give just enough to keep you coming back for more. Her looks are so bombastic you HAVE to pay attention, but then: she tells stories and jokes to dismiss answering prying questions, she is never seen without full get up, her marriage is barely acknowledged. And you never ever know, you never get anything from her. She has total control over her product- herself.
In reading the book, the predatory and consumptive part of me wanted to know her, hoped I might get a glimpse at the real woman, the one who can be judged and no jokes can cover it, the one whose frailties are mine to assign. But nope. Utter control.
Or UDDER control, as she would say, jangling her big bosom in rhinestones.
The book was exactly what she said it was- a book about her clothes and hair, with a few narrow anecdotes about stylists and celebrities (the delicate mention of hanging out with Andy Warhol is so tepid you’d think they were just watching the crowd at Studio 54 over glasses of sweet tea…but we know better, right?). No revelations, and honestly, a poor capture of her storytelling voice. In short, reading this book felt a little like Dolly invited me into her home as a guest, sat with me at a kitchen table and looked through a photo album as she pointed out things she liked or people she knew. The gowns were gorgeous, the shoes mighty tall, the wigs extravagant.
If you want to add to the collective fantasy of Dolly Parton, this book is a world-building read, and like any good fantasy author, Ms. Parton has designed every part of it to hook readers and take them on HER journey.