The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Bad, Bad Barbie

by Melissa Bell

A Google search for the author Marianne Duest turns up just one book – Barbie in Television. I'm not really too surprised. I pulled this book off my shelf the other day and started reading it. It's pretty bad. Actually, it's really bad. Ridiculously contrived and draggy – at 181 pages, it takes until page 51 for Barbie to actually get to the television station. There's a lot of time wasted explaining how Barbie got into the work program offered by her high school, and how she travels to Florida (not quite sure why this story takes place in Florida at all – but I guess I'll learn about that as the adventure continues) and a whole bunch of other stuff that just comes right out of left field.

It's fun because it's so awful. Some of the chapter titles include:

Barbie's New Career, page 3
Midge's Disappointment, page 21
Meet Danny Folger!, page 63
The Two Faces of Danny Folger, page 85
Friendly Spooks, page 99
The Mystery of Mangrove Key, page 153

I'm not quite there yet in my reading, but I'm guessing that Danny Folger plays a rather critical role in the story. The book's blurb mentions a "whirlwind romance" – but so far nothing about this book says "whirlwind" in any way, shape, or form.

So I wonder about Marianne Duest, the book's author. Was it her real name? How old was she when she wrote this? What inspired her to write a Barbie book? Did she slave away on the manuscript for months and then fire it off to the publisher? Did she have an agent? Was she over the moon with excitement when it got accepted?

Among other Barbie adventures listed on the back of this book, Ms. Duest is mentioned only once. The "regular" writers of Barbie's fabulous life appear to be Cynthia Lawrence and Bette Lou Maybee – sometimes they write as a team, sometimes not. But the Google search does reveal that Barbie in Television lived at least one other life in The Netherlands (Barbie En Haar Televisiebaan). I wonder if the Dutch enjoyed the badness of this book as much as I am.

Here's a delightful excerpt:

Midge hopped impatiently on one foot and tugged her coat collar up to her ears like a curly-headed turtle.

"Oh, Barbie!" she wailed through chattering teeth. "It's freezing. Let's stop at The Pop Shoppe for a hot chocolate."

"Umm! That's for me. I can hardly t-talk!"

Barbie's teeth had set up a clatter of their own and the two friends hurried down the street with their heads bent low against the swirling snow. It was too cold even to talk, but they burst into quick giggles when the rapid clicking of their teeth struck them as silly.

Lousy stuff, huh?

But I must admit I'm enjoying this bad read anyway. Sometimes things are just so deliciously awful. And Barbie in Television is definitely one of those things.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I didn't even know there WERE Barbie books, but I shouldn't be surprised. Everything else about the brainless creature has been merchandised. It would be really ironic if they were well-written and deep -- exploring Midge's chocolate addiction, for example. But I know what you mean about some things being so bad they're good. I guess Betty and Veronica were the Barbies of my generation. Those comics were definitely bad and oh, so good.

Sun Dec 02, 05:46:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne said...

I tried to comment here earlier, but I guess Blogger didn't want you to know that I once considered posting on a Barbie in Space book that someone had the misfortune of translating into French. It came to my house by way of the school library. I will probably see it again!

Sun Dec 02, 06:14:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Bad reads are great. But I can never actually finish.

Sun Dec 02, 07:47:00 pm GMT-5  

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