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This unauthorized biography may satisfy inquiring minds until Parton finishes her impending autobiography.

Book Review: Smart Blonde – Dolly Parton by Stephen Miller

In his acknowledgments, author Stephen Miller makes it clear that his book, Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton, is not an authorized biography of the singer, songwriter, and actress. Despite not being able to interview Parton or most of her closest associates for the book, he has been able to gather an impressive collection of anecdotes and factual information about Parton's life, from childhood to stardom.

In addition to the fairly comprehensive 60-year overview of Parton's life, the book contains a selective discography, source notes, a bibliography, and an index – all useful tools for researchers. I particularly enjoyed looking at the 16 pages of plates of photographs of Parton at various points in her life. Unfortunately, only the most dedicated fans are likely to read the book from cover to cover.

Despite being repeatedly drawn in by the stories and snippets of Parton's life shared in this book, I was turned off by the rough editing. Far too often, the narration would shift from one anecdote to the next, with only a paragraph break to indicate the transition. This can work, but only if there is a clear ending and beginning for each story, which Miller infrequently is able to achieve.

Miller appears to have several reasons for writing this book. On the surface, he is a journalist/writer interested in compiling and sharing as much about the subject (Dolly Parton's life) as he can. However, several themes appear early on in the book, and they all point to a different motive: to shatter the public image that Parton has cultivated for herself over time.

It is no surprise that the public Parton is any different from the private, real Parton. What celebrity is exactly the way they seem? Even regular people create public personas that are different from their private selves. Miller seems to imply that there is something more sinister afoot, but does not have much information to back up this assertion. This biography would be much more enjoyable to read if the author let the facts speak for themselves.

Between the choppy editing and the questionable agenda, it is difficult for me to recommend Smart Blonde to other readers. It may appeal to those who are less picky about the flow of narration than I, and who are able to distinguish between fact and opinion.

About Anna Creech

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