Dolly: The Biography (Cooper Square Press) | Alanna Nash

Although she certainly never vanished from the limelight, country legend Dolly Parton has lately enjoyed resurgent acclaim from listeners and critics alike because of an exceptional string of bluegrass-inflected recordings (the most recent of which, Halos & Horns, is currently vying for the "Best Country Album" Grammy).

In that regard, now makes an opportune moment for Cooper Square Press to issue an updated edition of Dolly: The Biography, Alanna Nash's 1978 look at Parton.

Readers of Entertainment Weekly should recognize Nash's byline: she regularly reviews country music for the magazine. (She also has authored Behind Closed Doors, a lengthy collection of interviews and profiles of more than two dozen performers in that genre, and has written for Esquire and The New York Times, among other publications.) In Dolly, a trade paperback that falls just shy of 300 pages and features a 16-page selection of black-and-white photographs, Nash traces her subject's life and career from Parton's birth in a log cabin in Tennessee on January 19, 1946, though her seven years on the syndicated Porter Wagoner Show to her solo efforts following an acrimonious parting with Wagoner.

She does so economically yet engagingly, having interviewed a plethora of Parton's relatives, friends, and acquaintances, many of them "colorful." (Early in the bio, Knoxville radio personality and politician Cas Walker, who gave Parton her first paying position as a singer, describes an altercation with a woman on his show: "She knocked three of my teeth out, and I got up and opened me up a boot shop in her hind-end then.")

The original edition of Dolly left its subject poised on the brink of superstardom, to use a dubious phrase. In addition to an updated discography, this new edition adds a 17-page thirteenth chapter that tries to summarize Parton's activities during the past quarter century. As a predictable consequence of the volume's status as an update instead of a revision, that chapter fails to satisfy. Because it has so many things to cover-the flash and fizzle of Parton's film work, the founding of Dollywood (her Smoky Mountains theme park), and her peaks and troughs as a recording artist, among others-it feels less like a true chapter than a mere afterword.

Still, Nash's Dolly makes a serviceable introduction to the buxom Tennessee songbird-something to while away the time till Parton's next CD arrives.

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