I first read ‘A Real Doll’ by A.M. Homes in the Barcelona Review, though it had been published a few years before. the start of a long-standing admiration for this unique American writer. In ‘A Real Doll’ a younger brother starts “dating” his sisters’ Barbie doll when she’s not around. What starts in all innocence becomes darker and darker. Homes manages to wring everything out of this scenario, but written in a lively, humorous voice. By channelling the sex doll fantasies that you find in Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Dream Home a Heartache’, and later, in TV programmes like Humans, what Homes does is go to heart of the matter – for this is “a real doll” the play on words with what a gangster might say about his girlfriend. It starts very funny – he’s taken her from Ken, who hasn’t exactly got the necessary equipment for a fulfilling relations – but by the end its almost a horror story.
First published in The Safety of Objects, Daedalus Press, 1990, and available to read online in the Barcelona Review