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.