Miss Pym and a Friend

Miss Pym and a Friend

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Lady Lazarus

Sylvia Plath
The notes below reflect my thoughts and opinions, based on a lot of reading on Plath that I did in the 70s and 80s.  They are no one else’s opinions.

Public Domain

She has inspired my own poetry and writing; I see the positive in her, the multitalented girl who had it all,  who loved to dress well, was a model, a writer, an A student, a good cook, an artist.  She could, as one biographer put it, make any space her own.   She had it all,  or seemed to if you looked at the spread Life Magazine did on her.   Then, there were the breakdowns, the depressions, the misunderstood treatments.  Olive Prouty put it best when she entreated Plath not to “burn too brightly,” bright flame that she was. Gifted children are often like that; they burn too brightly. I have a son like that; he has burned brightly, and suffered a lot of misunderstanding.  Thankfully, he doesn’t have Plath’s depression.
Still my favorite poet, and in many ways, favorite writer.  She’s been drowned and saved again and again from the politically correct cesspool.  Poets, famous ones, usually men, who write and read loud poems about women beheading their children, decry her for committing suicide when her children were in the house.  Newsflash; she taped the door so the gas wouldn’t get to them.
It was a minefield to write about her in graduate school; that’s why I went back to graduate school.  Instead, she got a nod in my dissertation, and later, my book on  Pym. Path deserves more than a nod; she was an excellent woman, and perfect in nearly everyway, except her emotions and psyche were mortal.
I was told in grads school by a teacher who wrote three pages on her in an anthology, a self proclaimed expert, that anything I published or wrote on Plath would have to include her name.  She then asked me if I were “Jewish or just curious.” My aunt is Jewish, I’m Greek Orthodox, others in my family are Catholic, Pentecostal, Memorial Christian Church, and in the case of two baby cousins Moslem.  My family is a lot of things, but I will say there is a close connection between Judaism and the Greek Orthodox Church. Our Easter, Pascha, means “Passover,” and has to follow Passover by so many days.  Part of our church is set up like a Temple, and Father Bernstein, who founded Jews for Jesus, became an Orthodox priest.  I will provide sources for all this later; I’m not writing from memory and thought.
This distasteful woman terrorized our whole department; I got out from under her, but it wasn’t easy.  Her comment was offensive and ignorant; Plath did write about The Holocaust, but I and several biographers, note she felt guilt.  Her father was from the part of Germany that ran into Poland. Again, I’ll check my sources, but look up Otto Plath’s biography.
Her late husband was not innocent; though lots of people have tried to wash their hands of her and her death.  Rumor had it that if you quoted Plath’s work, you had to submit your thesis or book to TH for “approval.”  Many think he was a murder; I’ve read respected biographies that talk about discrepancies at her inquest, and the fact that she had signed divorce papers before her death.  These have not surfaced to my knowledge.  Close friends stated that right before her death she was dressing up and going out, was not despondent, etc.
She and TH are both gone; they have to sort it out, but after Plath, he did have a girl friend who also gassed herself, as well as their child.  Again, I can get you the sources.
TH allegedly had a gag order on Aurelia Plath, Sylvia’s mother, and she had to beg permission to publish Letters Home.  TH and his sister nearly destroyed Anne Stevenson’s reputation when she wrote “Bitter Fame.” At one point, the author stated it was their book more than hers, so heavily did they edit.
Watch the Voices and Visions segment on her, done in the 80s, where famous poets interviewed basically kept saying “it wasn’t my fault; I couldn’t do anything.”  Hardly anyone discussed her talent or work.  The same poets criticized her when she lived in e
England, at one point, in WB Yeats’ old house.  They made fun of her appetite, saying she downed foie gras “like Aunt Dot’s meatloaf”, and ridiculed her when her family sent her a new American stove because the one she had in Europe was too primitive.
I was born in Europe, and I have European relatives.  Their jealously and viciousness is contagious and deadly.  Their resentment of Americans, even their own families, is sad and epic.  My mother, an American who lived in Europe, even to being caught in WWII on a visit, had similar issues.  Her in-laws expected her to pay their bills, and her own family sent her American coffee, laundry detergent, and diapers, because at the time, what was available was lousy quality.  Shame on Mom for trying to make the best of things, and for having a family who cared.  Shame on Plath’s family for doing the same.
So, these are my thoughts on a genius, talented wife and mother, who left us too soon.  I’m sure many of us would like to know what happened to her.  But despite a lot of efforts to claim her as a political effigy or to villainize her, her words speak for her.  She will live on, as long as there are books and people to read them. Like Lady Lazarus, she rises again.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

10 Clues You Might Be a Doll Addict - Ruby Lane Blog

10 Clues You Might Be a Doll Addict - Ruby Lane Blog: On the Dolls Lane, we live and breathe dolls all day, every day. It’s safe to say that we are doll addicts. If you’ve heard the saying, ‘it takes one to know one,’ let us know if any of these telltale clues apply to you! 1.    You tell your fiancé that you would rather have... Read more »

Friday, July 6, 2018

So, you Want to Write a Book!

Part I:


 So, you want to write a doll book? As a free lance writer on many topics, I hear a lot of what people want to write about. I’ve read guides and doll collecting books by people who write for magazines, but who are not collectors or even antique people.  Some are adequate; they repeat the arty lines about collectible doll types and books.  Some are just badly done and don’t contain helpful features like indices and Tables of Contents.


I love to write and I love dolls. I’ve been writing since I was ten, when I was part of a kids writing club in the neighborhood.  I’ve collected dolls since I was three, and got my first doll book at age 7; it was “Dolls” by john Noble.


It seemed natural at one point that I would end up writing articles and books about dolls.


Ever since I received Carl Fox’s “The Doll” as a gift, I dreamed of writing a photo study of my own collection.  That probably supported me on more than anything. I’ve always enjoyed reading books about other peoples’ collections, and have thought it was wonderful when they wrote beautiful color essays about them. Kay Desmonde's dolls and her various books with their carefully constructed backdrops of perfectly scaled furniture and accessories really inspired me.


Reading about dolls and nearly everything else led me to studying literature, so that in college, I double majored in English and Spanish, and read the literature of both. I began to write more poetry and served ion the editorial board of our literary magazine, SAGA, and on the board of an “underground” college lit mag called “An Ounce of Civet.


Just after graduating from college, I decided to try my hand at publishing an article on doll collecting, and had “Confessions of a Collector’ accepted for now out of print, "National Doll World."  I was so excited that I had the article framed. 


Little by little, I started getting articles about dolls published in other magazines including "Doll Reader", "Doll News", "Adventures; The Illinois Travel Magazine", "Western Doll Collector, and Hope and Glory: The Midwestern Journal of Victorian Studies."


I confess there is something thrilling about seeing your name in print.  Occasionally, I even got a “fan letter’ form another writer or doll collector.


When I finally got out of graduate school the first round, I got the idea of writing a book about dolls.  Of course, it had been done many times over, so I looked at types of dolls, all kinds of books, doll magazines, doll newsletters, encyclopedia articles, old fashioned card catalogs, and doll catalogs.  I decided on metal dolls and dolls with metal parts because no one had ever tackled those subjects together in book form.  Little did I know what I would start.  During my second round of graduate school, I hit on the idea of writing a book length bibliography of dolls, not just books about dolls, but all types of media that mentioned dolls and toys.

The book on metal dolls took me 25 years to finish and publish, and it took three publishers and all kinds of revision.  The bibliography, “A Bibliography of Doll and Toy Sources,” now on Kindle as well, took over 17 years.


Metal Dolls: Part II


I think I felt sorry for metal dolls when I was little.  At 9, my mother gave me "The Complete Book of Doll Collecting" by renowned artist and author Helen Yung.  Mrs. Young made dolls sold by Kimport for many years, and you can still find them advertised in vintage issues of Kimport’s own publication, “Doll Talk.”


Mrs. Young addressed Minerva, Juno, and Diana metal heads in a chapter she titled “Dolls Called Secondaries.” These included celluloid dolls and half dolls.  Like the metal dolls, these dolls were secondaries because they were sleepers that other collectors had not yet discovered.  She advised new collectors to include a few examples in their collections.


Young also wrote a chapter on automata and mechanical dolls with amazing stories of their own.  There was a marionette clad in real armor representing Joan of Arc that I loved; Joan of Arc was another of my youthful interests; I read and watched everything I could about her. There was a whistling Bru rescued from a French convent after World War II that had belonged to a young girl in the French Resistance; the girl was shot as a spy.  “The Complete Book of Doll Collecting” was also the first place I had ever read about Schoenhuts.  The little girl with short, dark bobbed hair and overalls featured reminded me of Scout from my favorite book, “ To Kill a Mockingbird.”


It was as if the author was channeling me to continue her research and write a book on these dolls she loved, but others ignored. 


When I was 8, my Brownie troop visited another doll collection in our neighborhood.  Mrs. Wellman had  perfect Minerva metal doll twins, blonde, dressed in light blue cotton bustle dresses, trimmed in fine lace.  She considered them the best of her collection, which also contained many china heads, antique bisques, miniature, and Madame Alexanders ,including all of the Sound of Music set.


It got me thinking.


Also, when you want to write a book, it is a good idea to try to find something others have not written about.  There was a plethora of doll publications when I started to research.   I had a pretty big library of books, so I started with them. Interlibrary Loan was a huge help, and in the early days of the modem, I asked one of our librarians to do a ten minute Internet search.


After I got the results of the Internet search,  I invested in a stash of 3x5 and 4x6 note cards.  I took notes on each card, clearly noting the quotations, names of authors, publication dates, and titles of books.  I decided on how to organize the book, and then took notes on each category.  Soon, I wrote an outline based on the categories I had created. 


It took weeks to organize my books and note cards.  I went from using a shoebox to store my research, to accordion files and a plastic folio for pictures, to a filing cabinet, to several book cases.  I had the accordion file for articles, letters, and correspondence, and the folio for pictures.


Illustrations were the hardest part of writing about dolls.  By the late 80s, publishers had become very picky and collectors and museums very selfish.  No other way to put it.  In the past, when I needed a photo or a quote from someone, I politely wrote to ask them and contacted them via their publisher.  I never had an editor or publisher refuse to forward a letter.  I also checked "Contemporary Authors" by Gale Publishing, and wrote to some authors directly.


Part III More Research:


By writing to editors, I was able to contact Mary Hillier, who became my very good friend and penpal. We wrote about 2 letters a month to each other for 14 years until she died.  I also met Mr. R. Lane Herron, who is still a good friend and correspondent.  Through Mary, I wrote to Dorothy Coleman and others.


At first, the editors of the old “Dolls” were very enthusiastic. They were full of tips and forwarded letters for me, and of course, I offered to pay postage. Then, quite suddenly, KPG, who had just become an editor, refused to forward letters to John Noble, Faith Eaton, and Lenon Hoyte.  They were my last three letters.  She also refused to help me contact them.  I wrote to their book publishers, but never got an answer.   Soon after, the magazine began publishing its own pieces on mechanical and metal dolls.


I had one noted author plagiarize my work; no, she didn’t answer my letter.  The assistant editor of the magazine removed her next two articles on metal dolls.


Mrs. Coleman answered my first letter tersely; she thought I had misspelled Janet Pagter Johl’s name as Janice. I hadn’t.  Later, Mary Hillier “interceded” for me and Mrs. Coleman was very helpful.  She told me that the Huret metal head was in the collection of Dorothy Dixon.


I asked Mrs. Dixon if I could pay to have a photo taken of the doll; she sent me a beautiful card with an antique doll on it.  I still have it.  She refused to send me a picture because she “had other plans for her doll.” Then, she died.


If anyone knows the whereabouts of the pewter head Huret, please, let me know!  I had to sketch the doll from a photograph in “Doll News.” The authors of that series of articles were very nice, but they no longer owned the Huret, and had no influence on Ms. Dixon.


Needless to say, I didn’t give up. My dad photographed my own dolls in black and white.  I asked around a located a photographer who took pictures for me as a challenge.  He refused to take my money, so when I lived in California, I sent him a lovely Christmas gift.


Another friend located the photos of Christine Nilsson and her dolls and others let me have photos and take them.  A couple of the dealers I know gave me metal heads for the book and for my collection.  Artists and jewelers talked to me about the lost wax method and of the metals they enjoyed working with.


Of course, life went on. I published articles on many other types of dolls, and other things. I moved to California, back home, and back to graduate school.  I took all my notes and manuscripts with me, but not my books.  My mother kept track of them and the dolls for me, or I never would have finished.


By the early 90s, the “book” had been published in a series of articles, primarily in "Doll Reader" magazine. DR had been very good to me over the years, and very helpful.  I owe a lot to the advice of Chris Revi and Catherine Cook.  Mary Hillier sent photos, addresses, notes, and ideas, as well as articles from England.  She also proofread my manuscript, along with my dissertation on Barbara Pym.  My friend the late Angela Wells, a well known novelist, also read and edited, and was full of ideas for general tips.  I lost an article to one magazine along with priceless photos.  They had no clue what happened to it.  The then editor of “National Doll World” got snotty about the professional photographs an award winning professor of photography had taken for me.  She knew I taught college level English, and quipped that she didn’t want “college kids” playing with cameras taking photos.  Somehow, she found the name of a local photographer and paid for him to take pictures.  He did a mediocre job, but at least Ms. Snooty was satisfied, but I didn’t use those photos in the final book.


Next, after I met and married my husband, who is a photographer and computer guru, the publication process speeded up.


The manuscript had been typed and proofed again by Dad, and the folks at now defunct Pip printing who were terrific.  I wrote and mailed several book proposals, long detailed outlines with sample chapters and photos.  Remember, I had to type most of these.  I didn’t have a word processor till the late 90s, and got a computer with Internet later.  My friends at JnJ dolls were great about giving me ideas, and I was able to chat with doll greats like Dorothy McGonagle and Florence Theriault on the old Hobby Central Doll Folders in the early days of AOL.


I was also writing a lot of other books and articles, finished my Masters and PhD., wrote a book on Barbara Pym, and chapters for books on Virginia Woolf, Anne Rice and The Harlem Renaissance.  I sent the book to The Popular Press which ultimately closed, to my alma mater, to Dover Books, Crown, Hobby House Press, and others.  No luck. About 3 years ago, 918studio typeset the book and prepared to publish it.  They were the gracious publishers of my poetry chapbook, “Sappho, I should have Listened.”  My photos travelled cross country and back, and my husband took up the painstaking task of editing.


We set up our own publishing group called American Doll and Toy Corp, and proceeded to contact Fidlar-Doubleday/ now Brandt-Doubleday, and had the book printed.  They also did my bibliography, which I’ll discuss below in the next article.


All of this required a lot of research, foot work, Internet searches and phone calls.  I visited a lot of doll shows and museums, studied marketing books, publishers’ literature, and writing journals.  We published our book in May 2013.  I excerpted it and featured it on my blogs, Doll Museum, Dr. E’s Doll Museum, Dr. E’s Greening Tips for the Common Person, An Apologia for Countess Erzebet Bathory, Memoir, Writing your Life Story and Miss Barbara Pym meets Miss Charlotte Bronte.


Part IV:


At the Midwest Modern Language Association convention, I presented a paper on “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and automatons. A group of my metal dolls, automatons, and robots travelled to a display at The German American Heritage Center, and I did two programs on the dolls, one that involved local readings from poets and writers in our area. We wrote the group poem, “Hinges and Hearts."


Along the way, I picked up a few rivals, one in particular, was determined to copy my work.  Others tried to get my printed manuscript and my pictures.  Never hand over unpublished material like this to anyone, not even your best friends.  If it is printed and copyrighted [which it technically is as son as it is published, then use your own discretion].  The book is now featured on Doll Pile, my Twitter page, My Facebook page Dr. E’s Doll Museum, and it is for sale on Alibris and Amazon.  Four local stores and one museum carry it, and it is doing very well.  I am thankful to Mr. Barry Mueller of  "Doll Castle News" and to Donna Kaonis of "Antique Doll Collector", who gave it such good reviews, and to the five star reviews I’ve received on Amazon.  My friend and penpal, Anne Marie Porot was also helpful when I was writing, and she sent a nice email after I mailed her a copy, stating she thought it was the first book of its kindl  Thank you, Anne Marie, and Galerie Chartres, who sent me a catalog as research.


The Internet has made publishing much easier than it was, especially Independent Publishing, but this kind of research is till a long haul.  If you have had experience publishing a book on dolls, especially as an Independent Publisher, we’d love to hear from you!






Monday, June 25, 2018

The Nanny and Mr. Sheffield, Niles and C.C., Hermia and Lysander, Pyramus and Thisbe

A Midsummer Night's dream is a mirror for couples and their foibles; Pym certainly was familiar with it, and The Bard allegedly was writing Romeo and Juliet at the same time, throwing in yet another comparison.  I toss out the idea that in Fran Drescher's sitcom The Nanny, she and Mr. Sheffield are a Hermia/Lysander combination [with shades of Theseus and Hyppolita], while Niles and C.C. are the Pyramus and Thisbe couple that adds comic relief.  The children are the Greek Chorus.

Mr. Sheffield is handsome as Lysander, but like Theseus, he takes himself a little too seriously.  Remember Theseus saying he doesn't believe in old Greek Fables, yet he is one. Fran is like an Amazon because she engages in along struggle with C.C. over Max Sheffield.  's

C.C. plays Thisbe to Niles' Pyramus because while she may seem more like Lady Macbeth, she is still a little girl with a crush, a little socially inept, and not quite knowing who her true love is. 

Pym would love the entire sitcom; it goes beyond Cinderella in celebrating unsuitable attachments. There are Shakespearean and Jane Eyre allusions throughout The Nanny; they even stage a hiliarious production of Romeo and Juliet. Broadway actors, real ones, also play bit parts in the show.

Truly, the play is still the thing.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Why We Need Dolls In Our Lives - Ruby Lane Blog

Why We Need Dolls In Our Lives - Ruby Lane Blog: Why We Need Dolls In Our Lives:  No culture has been without dolls. In some societies, the doll figures that remain seem to be more idol or ritual figures, but the same cultures refer to dolls as children’s toys.  They might be very simple compared to their idols or decorative figures, maybe a decorated twig... Read more »