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All posts for the month August, 2014

a review of About Irene

Published August 28, 2014 by The Merida Review

Woo hoo! Look at this! Thank you, Geoff!!!!!

 

It would be too simple to call About Irene a doll’s memoir. Irene is broken, but this inventive, brilliant new novel by Cher Bibler is not so much about Irene – who really “is” broken, as in pieces – than it is about humanity set in a doll’s world, through a doll’s eyes (with parallel reflections from the human world as well). As one doll remarks in the novel, they are made in the human form to mimic human nature, but here, they also “are” human nature, and can feel just as deeply as any of us who read their stories. “We don’t change, but our little girls grow up and away from us,” another doll says. Bibler has created an intoxicating and addictive novel. Read it in one long sitting and you’ll immediately want to revisit these new friends. The story begins with our narrator under the care of Sasha, who only begins collecting dolls after her husband dies, and Sasha is now dying herself, with the dolls wondering where they will end up (a common fear), and what will happen to their friends, their relatives. Their fears are soon realized as they are put into auction, and our narrator finds herself a new owner, Vickie, who immerses herself in doll clubs, doll shows, doll conventions – the works. “I have lived many lives,” says one of the dolls. So she has. You may well wonder about these words – as in, are the dolls indeed alive – did that doll’s arm just move, did she just pull a small piece of lint from her dress? Are the dolls throwing tea parties for each other? This is a novel that plays with reality, but it is no fantasy. And not all dolls are female, either. Take Nevis, who is meant for a boy to play with. Then the boy goes off to war and dies, just as he’s made Nevis die time and time again. Nevis, who fancies himself a writer, drinks too much now and talks incessantly about those war years. Yes, dolls can be bores and snobs as much as they can be loving and your best friend. A lot of who a doll is comes from the owner, but also, dolls are made from different materials and are created in different times. Even the fashions reflect their times. There is royalty and there are the peasants, and those who exist somewhere in between. There is bound to be a division – from how they see themselves in the doll hierarchy to how they look upon the other dolls they share a home with. A Cher Bibler poem, or rather, a Nevis poem, punctuates each chapter, and often times tells a story within the story, adding yet another dimension to a tale that is sure to have you wishing for a sequel.

– Novelist Geoff Schutt

Photos that could be me

Published August 21, 2014 by The Merida Review

Excuse me. I mean, really.

You don’t know what a french fashion doll looks like?

We are the ultimate in doll art, and you have no clue what I am?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions since I started writing this thing. One person even said (and I quote), “I didn’t know they had Barbie dolls 150 years ago.” So, I’ve taken my little stiff doll finger and googled (something which you could have done way easier than me!) and found a couple photos that could be me. But aren’t. I know that some authors are so famous they have no private life, can’t even walk down the street! and I don’t want that to be me. So, no on pictures of me. But here are some of my kind:

ffd1

 

ffd2

ffd3

That should clear up some of the confusion. Barbie dolls, indeed. Hmmph.

 

On where the lines should be, after discovering that lines actually exist

Published August 6, 2014 by The Merida Review

I like to assassinate character as much as the next doll, we really are a shallow bunch, but the other day I was sitting with two of my friends, listening to them tear apart a person I really like. I tried to laugh it off, ignore it, but they went on and on and on and I got to the point where I had to stick in a few gentle words in that person’s defense. Which only set friends A and B off all the more. The more the conversation went on, the more guilty I felt at not sticking up for friend C – do you know what I mean? It was very awkward.

I don’t even think A and B noticed I wasn’t participating in the conversation because they were both participating with such enthusiasm.

I think I need to take a break from this sort of thing, redefine my parameters.

And there goes more joy out of my life. Instead of enjoying lively gossip sessions with my friends, now I have to sit home alone and be sanctimonious. What a bore.

Is this what happens to you when you get old?

I have resisted old age as much as I possibly can. Yes. I am old. But I don’t have to act old, do I? I don’t have to stop laughing or living or dreaming, do I? No one treats you like you’re old if you don’t act old, and, believe me, I’ve seen all kinds. I live in a doll collection, you know. I have friends of all ages, types and backgrounds, though I don’t go out of my way to cultivate a big variety of friends. I am content with my little circle. I don’t know why I’m like this, maybe I’m just lazy, but I would rather have a few really good friends than a lot of acquaintances. (We always act as though those are the only two options. I am not going to take the time right now to wonder if there are others. We will file that away for later.)

I have known happy dolls, glum dolls, silly dolls, serious dolls. I like my friends to have at least a modicum of intelligence and a ready wit. I like to laugh at other peoples’ shortcomings, I admit it, it’s one of my favorite pastimes. I suppose I can be cruel, I guess it depends on your point of view. I like to think of myself as Jane Austenish, but I suppose others could use less flattering terms to describe me.

So why the remorse? Why did listening to friends A and B do exactly what I have done many a time make me feel so bad? I felt as though they were misinterpreting the situation, that they hadn’t given friend C a proper chance, that they were forming opinions with too little information. And while, yes, there were things to laugh at about him (friend C), he laughs at them himself!, their (friends A and B) barbs were cutting too deep. They had crossed the line from witty to cruel.

Hey. There is a line. I have an actual line of demarcation between what is acceptable and what is not. I didn’t know that about myself before. I thought I was one of those no holds barred, no limits kind of girl, but I was wrong.

This is a rather sobering realization to come to at age 150. You really would’ve thought I’d have realized it a good while back, wouldn’t you?, but I’ve noticed I am particularly dense when it comes to learning things about myself.

I guess now I need to examine my options, figure out where to go next. Get a mobcap and sit home by my fireside, knitting socks for homeless dolls for the rest of my days? Lose the morals and join in next time friends A and B desiccate friend C, or friends D, E or F? Drink more? Drink less? Find new friends?

Ugh. I really hate these moral crises. They’re so damned disruptive. They come bubbling up from nowhere and absolutely overwhelm you. And really. You know friends for years and then suddenly you see them in a different light and they don’t seem so much like friends? Or, indeed, even people you want to know? What’s with that?

And then you’re looking in some sort of twisted mirror at yourself. Is that how others see me? Is this the way I want to be seen? Is this the person I want to be?

Yeah. What kind of person do I want to be? That’s the big one. After 150 years, I guess maybe I can take a little time to figure that out.