Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I quit doing book reviews in elementary school. I always wanted to like the book, but...

Current Mood : Deflated

Busy day today. After a large laundry day flooded the drain and ran into the Garpartment, we started taking our baskets of dirty clothes to the nearby Laundromat. It's either that or spend all day in the dank, crowded garage, monitoring the drains and stopping / starting the washer to avoid another flood. Personally, it's worth about $6. three times a month or so to go to a warm, bright shop, do all our loads at once, relax with a book, and then bring it back here to the dryer.

So that was today's task, but I couldn't get started 'til Beloved Hubby came back with Starlight. He had classes and a Lab today, before work. Last time, he did the laundry over the weekend, for a chance to study quietly, but he has no time at all for the next two weeks or so. I rather enjoyed it, but hefting the wet clothes into the garage was a bit of work !

I took the time today to go over Sandi Holder's Barbie : A Rare Beauty tome, released this winter. I mostly got it 'cause it was new, I hadn't even seen it in a bookstore, but here it was, in our tiny library. Maybe it would even rekindle my former Barbie-love. It didn't.  I wanted to return it today, with my other books, because I'm done with it, and wanna give someone else a chance to enjoy it, but decided to keep it, in case. I promised ya'll a review, and want it or not, here goes.

It's a nice book. The photographs are lovely and sharp, the backgrounds are suitably pastel pink and swirly, and the text is often interesting. But there's no way I'd buy it. I'd want to do exactly what I did - look at it, nod appreciatively, and return it to the shelf. It's a nice book, an elegant book. But I don't have shelf space or mental space for it. In my life, 'coffee table books' are clutter-starters.

Without opening the book, I expected some coverage of her life-size recreation of the soda fountain from the Barbie Goes To College playset. I've heard of it in various doll magazines, and reporters are amazed, but for some reason, there seem to be darn few photos of it. It's not here. It's only mentioned as a place where she holds kids' birthday parties. Kinda sad, that. It reduces her 'I hired Disney and Pixar employees to design my space' specialness to just another Chuck E Cheese's, or local bowling alley. You'd think adults would love to visit there, with their just-purchased dolls, or it'd be perfect for area doll clubs to rent for meetings, or maybe even birthday parties for people who've lapped puberty and are heading on the down side of the hill. Nope. Ok, she's focusing on Barbie, not her own tribute to Barbie. That's thoughtful.

After giving it a quick leaf-through, I figured the lovingly photographed dolls were from Ms. Holder's personal collection - after all, she has the Barbie's Best Friend award (more later) and is presumably the world's biggest Barbie collector retailer, sales-wise. It's mentioned obliquely. But the flyleaf says every photo in the book was property of Mattel, Inc., and accompanying text usually details the stellar price someone paid Ms. Holder for it in one of her legendary auctions.

That was kinda my big beef with the book. It's charming, but not remotely comprehensive enough to be a real reference, or engaging in any way besides 'Look at the reeedonkulous amount someone paid for this doll'. I'd have loved more stories about buying from hoarders, engaging sales tales, meeting with Mattel reps - something besides 'Isn't this doll pretty ? Someone paid $357,951.42 for her !'. I think there are two chapters that don't have this kind of text, and they're both on dolls too modern to sell for much past their issue prices yet. Again, Ms. Holder is focusing on Barbie, not her Barbie store or her Barbie-dedicated life, but when it's just photos and closed auctions, there's not a human element to engage the reader, and without that, you're looking at a sales brochure.

The photos are pretty. But about 96% are of dolls and people I've seen before. There's two photos of the Handler family I've never seen, and maybe ten of prototype dolls and dresses. Everything else is 'seen it', occasionally veering into 'seen it six thousand times', and when you're not into early vintage, SilkStones, Bob Mackie, or extreme limited editions (like that first Holiday Barbie), there's just not a lot more here. This book will probably sing to a more dedicated collector. And I am definitely not a collector, even back before Monster High showed me what I'd been missing.

I can respect and even envy a bit of what Sandi Holder did here. It really is a lovely book, and a sweet tribute. But Barbie : Her Life and Times  by BillyBoy and Barbie All Dolled Up by Jennie D'Amato were much more enjoyable and fun for me. But remember, I'm not a collector, and this book may be a treasure trove of delights to someone who's not as broke, bitter, and boring as me.

But, lemme be straight and honest with ya'll - when I first got into Barbie as an adult, I kinda felt like I'd never fit in with the 'country club' attitude that comes with being a 'real' fan to some people and some message boards. I don't like 'inner circle' fan clubs, the National Convention often sounded like a snob-a-thon, especially from the Barbie Bazaar editors, and I felt I'd be judged and snubbed by my lack of 'serious' dolls if I dared attend one. Not that I ever would - we couldn't afford to tie up funds in the annual attendance lottery, or shell for the hotel and airfare. In some ways, Barbie - or at least her conventions - was for the wealthy. Barbie : A Rare Beauty made me remember all that. Not Ms. Holder's fault, but I really weary of the Barbie = money equation. And equating various dolls with how much they sold for doesn't help anyone who's just starting or merely curious.

I'll probably make a special trip to return it to the library tomorrow. I'm already a bit fragile this week, as you've probably noticed - I don't need another 'You're not good enough' haughty stare from my bedside. Someone else who doesn't have my issues is waiting for it.

Oh, and the 'Barbie's Best Friend' award - very disappointing. It's a real honor, and something to be exceptionally proud of, but the actual award shown in the book is an engraved ink stand with a bushy feather-pen, like what you'd see next to a guest book at a very pink wedding. I guess I was expecting a Barbie statue, a replica of one of the numerous Barbie trophies issued with doll outfits, or a brass-dipped Barbie sculpture - not something so much like what one of my friends gave me from the area mall's 'Things Remembered' store when I graduated college. Yes, I'm aware of how petty that sounds. My blog, my jerk opinion. Hmpft.

Tomorrow, I sew ! Feel free to crab on my pathetic sewing, but it's kind of a waste of time to criticize someone's opinion. At least that's what I think. (grin)

1 comment:

  1. Huh, sounds like the book is really just an advertisement for Ms. Holder's collection- and by extension, auctions thereof. She's showing you goods, telling you what she expects to get for items based on sales in the past, etc.