Peter Sotos and James Havoc are undoubtedly the two most transgressive authors on the planet. They’ve been flagellating the frontiers of ferality, exterminating the envelope of extremity, for over three decades. And when – at long last – they collaborate on a book, you can expect them to deliver something pretty darn special to their slavering armies of fetidity-fanatics. Doll is exactly that: special. I have never read any book before that so fearlessly eviscerates forbidden territory, exploding sacred cows with cerebral scalpels of clandestine commitment and viral volatility. TransVisceral Books are to be congratulated on spotting the performative potential of an interview conducted by Cor.tex Journal with James Havoc a year ago in a Cambodian café in Bangkok. The interview is used as an introduction to the book and, to rip the lid off Doll, I can do no better than reproduce part of it right here:
Tina Robinsey: Well, James, what’s the best way to put this? We’re here to talk about your passion for under-sized females.
James Havoc (laughing): Yes.
Tina Robinsey: And it’s a long-standing passion, I believe?
James Havoc (laughing again): Yes. Very long-standing. I’ve kept it up for decades.
Tina Robinsey: And there are few better places to pursue this passion than Bangkok, I guess.
James Havoc: Yes. Very few.
Tina Robinsey: Because they’re available on street-corners, aren’t they?
James Havoc (taking sip of herbal tea): Well, it’s not as blatant as that. Not nowadays. They’ve tightened up on enforcement of the international regulations a lot, in recent years. But if you’ve got the contacts, yeah, it’s still an excellent place to pursue this, ah, hobby.
Tina Robinsey: And other members of the counter-cultural community have flown in to take advantage of your contacts and local knowledge, I believe?
James Havoc: Yeah. Loads of big names. Pete Sotos, Dave Mitchell, Sam Salatta, they’ve all been over to check out what’s on offer and to admire my harem, as it were. Pete offered me cash on the nail for my best girl, but I turned him down flat.
Tina Robinsey: How much did he offer?
James Havoc: Oh, I’m not saying. But it was a lot, believe me. When you see her, you’ll understand why. Just hang on a sec.
[Unzips the shoulder-bag he has brought, carefully removes cardboard box, opens it, lifts out contents…]
Tina Robinsey: Oh, James, she’s gorgeous!
James Havoc: Thank you.
Tina Robinsey: And that cerise beret! It’s to die for!
James Havoc: Thank you.
Tina Robinsey: Did you make it yourself?
James Havoc: Yes. I make all their clothes myself.
Tina Robinsey: Can I have a closer look?
James Havoc: Sure. But be gentle with her, please.
Tina Robinsey: Oh, but she really is gorgeous! And the stitching is wonderful. So tiny! And so neat!
James Havoc: Thank you. My mum always said I was the best seamstress in the family. Far better than my sisters or my aunties.
Tina Robinsey: And does she have a name?
James Havoc: Of course. Say hello to Tina, dear. [Puts on cutesy ickle girl’s voice.] “Hello, Tina. I’m Belinda Barbie. Pleased to meet you.”
Tina Robinsey: And pleased to meet you, Belinda. Do all your Barbie-buddies have names starting with “B” too?
James Havoc: Yes. There’s Betsy Barbie and Bella Barbie and Beth Barbie and Barbarella Barbie and a whole bunch of others.
Tina Robinsey: Oh, James, she is sooooo cute. I think I’ve fallen in love! No wonder Peter Sotos wanted her so much.
James Havoc: Yes. He’s a fanatical collector too.
Tina Robinsey: And what about Sindy? Do you collect her at all?
James Havoc (shaking head, pulling face, and making gagging noise): No, no, never. Barbie’s the only girl for me. I accept no alternative.
Tina Robinsey: And what about Ken?
James Havoc: No, he’s never interested me. [Starts singing] “I’m a Barbie-boy, in a Barbie world…” A Barbie world, note. Ken can go take a flying fuck at a rolling ringpiece, as far as I’m concerned. (Interview text © Cor.tex Journal, 2012)
Having seen the interview, TransVisceral Books approached Havoc and asked him whether he’d like to collaborate with Sotos on a book devoted purely and simply to Barbie. Doll is the result. Sotos and Havoc trace the roots of their passion, describe their ever-expanding collections and offer low-cost, high-quality tips on customizing Barbie’s clothes and accessories to keep pace with the ever-changing worlds of fashion and popular music. There’s an extensive photo-section too, so you can meet Belinda, Betsy, Bella, Beth, Barbarella and all the rest. Barbie’s appeal has never been so clearly explained or so passionately celebrated, but the book may leave you – as it left me – with one nagging fear. How are Sotos and Havoc ever going to match it in future, whether solo or in collaboration? Quite honestly, I don’t think they will – and from the proud, Barbie-boy grins they wear in the photos, I don’t think they care…