Friday, March 06, 2009

I don't know how to play with Barbies.

Monday is the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Barbie at the New York Toy Fair, and in commemoration of the event, Mattel's releasing a new Black-and-White Bathing Suit Barbie, and an interior designer has created a real-life version of Barbie's Dream House in, yes, Malibu.

I was never an especially girly girl, and even now, I feel bad about the fact that I don't really know how to play with Barbies. Okay, you dress them up; what next? What if they only have three outfits, because you can't afford to buy more (as we never could)? You play out elaborate scenes with them and their friends, where they go to the mall or they make out with Ken or they drive off cliffs in their Barbie convertibles -- but how is that more fun than reading a book where all of that happens, and more?

I have vague memories of my sister and her friends staging scenarios wherein Barbie was kidnapped and possibly tortured ... but my friends and I played out similar stories (without the torture) in real life, pretending to be Batman and his archenemies (major shortcoming of "Batman," the TV series: not enough female villains). That was way more fun than playing with dolls, especially the part where we jumped from increasingly higher levels of the jungle gym that looked like the skeleton of a rocket ship, or from the top of the slide.

Batman was a really fun game. Grownups don't play Batman or Cowboys and Indians or even hide-and-seek ... and it's been years since I played Red Rover. Why are grownup games so much lamer than kids' games? (And no, I don't want to hear about your incredibly embarrassing fetish practices. Keep private things private, please.)

What I Read These Weeks

Manuscripts, mostly, but I have managed to finish a few published books:

Declan Hughes, SHIVER. A play set in the wake of the first wave of the Irish economic boom, about two married couples wrecked, in different ways. Harsh and heart-breaking, about the ways that we don't listen to each other, don't understand, and see what we want to see. Published and performed five years ago, it feels dismayingly fresh.

Declan Hughes, ALL THE DEAD VOICES. Dublin PI Ed Loy has two cases, one for a paying client and one a favor for a friend. In the first, the victim's daughter asks Ed to look at the 20-year-old murder of a tax investigator; the police's cold case squad has declined to reopen it because of the possibility that it might be linked to long-closed investigations of figures with ties to the IRA and other nationalist terrorist organizations. The second case is the murder of a young football star whose family has IRA connections of its own. I've been a fan of this series from the beginning, but this book hits a new level -- Hughes' unique voice rings strong, and the shifts in point-of-view make the book's resolution very powerful. I read an advance copy; the book will be out here in June.

Christopher Moore, FOOL. A retelling of King Lear from the Fool's point of view, full of sex, violence and a constant stream of wordplay, inside jokes and dead-on social commentary. Hilarious, but also angry and not a little sad -- at its core, this is a book about a main character who discovers that the man he considers a surrogate father is not a good man, and what he does after that discovery. Like all of Moore's best work, this is a book with many layers, and I will need to read it again.

Martin Clark, THE LEGAL LIMIT. Clark's first two books (THE MANY ASPECTS OF MOBILE HOME LIVING and PLAIN HEATHEN MISCHIEF) were comic crime novels; this is a straightforward family saga. Although the book has a crime at its center, it is not, strictly speaking, a thriller; it owes more to Walker Percy than to John Grisham. Law student Mason Hunt decides to protect his ne'er-do-well brother, Gates, from the consequences of a deadly act. Years later, that decision threatens to overturn Mason's entire life. Clark's purpose here is to explore the disconnect between justice and law, and if I finished the book feeling uneasy, I think he meant it that way. I'm glad people are still writing books like this: long, winding stories about real people in real situations, choosing the best from a list of bad choices.

12 comments:

Claire said...

Oh good I'm glad you liked Fool! I looked for it earlier this week in the bookstore across Dupont Cicle, but they don't have it yet.

Also, smoetimes Elizabeth and Will and I play Lost. It's pertty easy. Halfway through a conversation, you pretend to pull a gun on the otehr person. From the two episodes I have seen of Lost, I can confidently state that that happens on the show every thirty seconds.

Claire said...

Oh boy, that was the most typo-iest comment ever. I am not cut out for touch-typing...back to hunt and peck.

AnswerGirl said...

I will lend you my copy of FOOL, Claire -- I'll bring it down with me later this month!

Laura Benedict said...

I always made clothes for my Barbies and decorated Dream House furnishings. Then they went on dates and jumped off of things. Like roofs. Poor things. They would have flown, but they forgot to flap their arms!

steve said...

While I spent many a fine hour playing with my Barbie (I had but one), I also read, worked puzzles, lost at Monopoly to my older siblings and played out fantasy games in the back yard (Star Trek, Greek Goddess and Planet of the Apes were particular favorites). We fished and caught crawdads in the creek. We dug in the dirt and climbed trees, caught lightening bugs and set things on fire. My childhood was very rich, but it would have been a little less wonderful without my Barbie.

Barbie gave us girls of the 60's and 70's a chance to try on the relatively new social roles available to us. In my mother's day, you gave your daughter a baby doll and told her to be a mother(and only a mother). Today, you give your daughter a Barbie and tell her that she can be whatever she wants. Happy Anniversary, Barb!

steve said...

Oh, that comment was from Kris...not Steve.

AnswerGirl said...

I guessed, although I do want to hear about Steve's Adventures with Barbie. Kris, if you'd been around when I was little, you could have shown us how to play with Barbies in ways that didn't involve mutilation...

steve said...

Well, I have to come clean...

I did mutilate my sister's Barbie. I tried to repair her broken hips by fusing the plastic with heat, resulting in 3rd degree burns over 50% of her body. And my own Barbie had a grand mal seizure which snapped her neck. She survived, but her head now lolls about on her neck. The two are a sad pair, really.

Kris

Claire said...

Excellent. When are you planning on coming down?

AnswerGirl said...

The 16th...

Jen Jordan said...

I received Skipper's because my Mom disliked Barbies. In the end, it didn't matter much as my dog, Trouble, bit the feet off of all of them and threw them up in my bed. All of my dolls were amputees. No reattachments were attempted.

G.I Joes were not much better except the fascination with their odd facial hair and scars. Oddly, the dog never ate their feet off.

I so played the Batman game. Um, as the evil villain. That stupid series was the reason I stopped going to church on Sundays.

Also played Spy Vs. Spy from Mad Magazine. Hours of violent fun.

Read FOOL last night (until muted light spewed into my room this morning) and adored it. Sex, ambiguous anachronism and fantastic use of the term, "fuckstockings." Made me very happy.

Yep.

lawlis42 said...

I liked Barbies but I don't recall playing with them alot. My most recent experience with them has been an incredible exhibit of Polaroids of Barbie by a man named David Levinthal. They are gorgeous and if the posting I found was correct, they are on display through April 11 at the Gering & Lopez Gallery in New York. You can find more info on Mr. Levinthal's website. Anyone with a chance to go see them should. They are incredible!