the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson

p doll journal

detective work

Excerpt from P Jackson’s doll journal, summer 2000

I. I keep looking for traces of my own fantasies and desires in the doll games. Even though I think of them as genuinely collaborative (in some mysterious way that I can’t fathom) I also continually slip into thinking of them as simply Shelley’s desires, made doll flesh* and then imprinting themselves on me. What was I thinking? What did I like? Where was I? I am invisible to my own memory. Oddly, the games I remember best, because they came last, are the sex games, and yet I can’t even remember whether, or how, those games were erotic for me. If they were, I don’t think I knew it at the time. Was I just innocent, letting S lay down the template for my future fantasy life?

II. I still can’t figure out what the dolls meant to me. I have found only one reference to dolls in all my journals. I wrote in 1977 "My favorite dolls for playing with are Mouse and Troll* and our baby dolls" (and by baby dolls I did not mean Matron) The weird thing is, those dolls had nothing to do with doll games! Was this rebellion? Another thing: when we stopped playing the doll games together I never had any use for the dolls again, whereas S played with them privately for years; I used to see Alonzo and Aina clasped in each other’s arms by her bed long after the games were over. Why? Also, since we started this project S has been having dreams about the dolls. I have not*. Why? Is she the only true doll lover?

III. Since doll games I have had Jesse/Lauries in my life...and Harveys and Willys... and Ainas... but never a big Josh*.

IV. Detective work: handling the dolls gives me a murky bodily memory (tinged with nastiness, I must add) of how I might have related to them before. I do not feel as clear a sense of identification as I would have expected. More like a lover or voyeur (or perhaps god) with my fingers fumbling hugely over their bodies, unsnapping Melanie’s dress, slipping a pink ballet shoe on Jesse’sfoot... I wonder, though, whether what I feel when I touch them now is even a real clue to what I felt then. The dolls do have an aura, the stirrings of souls, but is it the same aura they used to have? In handling them now, after all, I’m also handling my child self and my child fantasy world in the flesh*, and my relation to that child and world seems to be one of fascination, if not outright longing. The doll is a relic, a holy fragment of the past, in the presence of which I feel the presence of that past. The dolls are magical objects that seem to lead back to some Eden (even if a nasty, dirty Eden*...)

V. My kiddle Sandy: When I touch her I think "this is the one that has part of my soul in her" (or I have part of hers in me) Something about the way you merge with objects as a child leaves them these souls; they linger and startle you much later. There is a sense of boundaries crossed when I touch her or stare too hard, as if it is too intimate, as if I should be careful of her privacy. I wonder if it is that she is child-me, so that touching her feels like touching my child self in some invasive and uncanny way, or just that she is a child and I am not anymore. I do feel as if the dolls’ (our) privacy could be violated (S peering into Aina’s crotch with her huge camera lens was disturbing).

V. He both repels and attracts. The pale pod of his belly, the tilt of his tinyfoot — my eye glides raptly over his horrible curves. I’m never done with him*.

VI: Laurie: I remember guilt, as if I was at fault. Today the whole story flashed into my head as it might have happened: Myself the faithless one, preferring Jesse (the new boy, enchanting with his buttery curls and sleepy blue eyes) and deciding to dye Laurie’s hair black because I’d grown bored with him, or even — worse still — out of a greedy wish to provide myself with both a blonde and a dark haired lover....Can this be right??*

VII. We named Aina’s second head Aina but we named Laurie’s second head Jesse. Why? From this fateful act to the death of Laurie there is a single line of causation. If the new head had become simply another Laurie there would have been no rivalry — and no betrayal*.

VIII. Laurie — a whole story to be told here (possibly untrue) of desire interrupted. Forced to wander ever since...! (Mental note*: psychoanalyze this. Laurie’s mutilation as castration trauma.)

IX. I do think I was in love with Laurie. But this is complicated: he was also my main doll, and I think I was mostly the one to animate him and play his part. So I also was Laurie, in a way, and S was Aina. Must examine gender bending and sibling eroticism re these two. Laurie and Aina had a relationship more along the lines of siblings or twins than did, for example, Josh and Aina — and both had identical androgynous bodies. This seems revealing. We discussed the doll games’ many same-sex sibling pairs in our conversation the other day but didn’t think of them. Scholars* will want to probe this topic further.

X. It’s odd to watch oneself construct (co-construct) a memory. I remember things now that I didn’t a week ago, like betraying Laurie, but are they real? It’s as if we’ve been filling in the blank spaces in some doll games painting that hangs inside my head — the picture is much easier to look at now, but the brush strokes are brand new and I still don’t know what lies behind them. Who knows what we may have already painted over!

XI. I am having Melanie issues* about my doll journal. (Mental note: do not use doll games to activate psychic traumas).

XII. Today we hiked along a stream to some falls and because of doll games we kept seeing ourselves as dolls in environments. I saw S’s foot, naked on a rock, as tiny doll foot, and rocks and pools as playgrounds for giant dolls (us) We thought about landscapes that are the wrong size, or that we can’t enter into, tiny ones or unreachable ones like the whirlpools under the falls, and the odd yearning, frustration almost, that we feel toward them. We want to be able to get into them, enter in all the way, not just look. Maybe doll pleasure has something to do with this. When we brought the dolls to Arizona with us we always wanted to experience all the landscapes with their bodies as well as ours. Floating them in the rain buckets, or making them swim in the bird pond (swimming was always the best. Watching the dolls swim). There was pleasure there that we couldn’t have with our own bodies: with the doll we could not only insert ourselves into a landscape but also see ourselves there — tiny body in clear pools, clambering over rocks, etc. A spatial pleasure, and visual. S said we should have brought big inflatable dolls along with us...watched them shoot down the falls and float in the whirlpools.

XIII. Anthony: thinking of him going into our doll box to play with Alonzo (who he remembers as Captain Pegleg) or coming upon B***** and wondering at her, touching her stumps, clacking her knees. Of course I imagine more*: did he sometimes find Captain Pegleg with a clay penis? Naked and erect? Must remember to ask. Trying to imagine our private world through A’s eyes makes me think about the weird intimacy/distance of siblinghood: that we became ourselves in relation to the same scenes and spaces and toys (that’s the intimacy) but all the angles are different — and that’s the distance, and that’s what makes triangulating the view through A seem so promising and weird: what might he know about me that I don’t? What might he know about Captain Pegleg? I picture A in Shelley’s closet looking into the doll box, seeing dolls naked and half dressed, embracing, with hairdos and mustaches — it would be like peering in on a tiny living world. The life in it partly doll life, but also Pimmie and Shelley life, through some secret alchemy, our private life. A kind of primal scene.

XIV. The Doll Games vs. the doll games: of course adult collaboration can’t be the same as doll games (would I even want it to be? I might disappear again.) If doll games were anything like as organic and improvisational and freely collaborative as I imagine, it must have something to do with the more flexible boundaries of our selves then, as well as the flexibility and urgency of the game itself (I imagine game as an agent too, with a sort of semi-autonomous life of its own — game animating the dolls, coursing through their veins; game like some constantly flowing river which we stepped in and out of.)

XV. Jacksonia: a place much like the shepherds’ Arcadia* — classical, pastoral, a refuge from the complexities of society and the pressures of adulthood.

XVI. In a way this project returns us to Jacksonia — Shelley’s room (now located in Seattle), childhood, the extreme privacy and idiosyncrasy* of our world. Once this might have been an unambiguously pleasurable place to dwell (or it might not have been; I don’t remember whether it was or not); now it seems dangerous. Thus I felt today melodramatically that doll games is the source of all woe, being on the one hand a lost haven, on the other a trap that would return me to...what? To being a mere appendage of my sister, I guess.

XVII Today I see the doll games as monstrous, and my life as a fateful struggle to escape them. They know no boundaries.

XVIII My Polaroids of Harvey*: I wanted him exalted, bathed in a mystical light. It was the combination of innocence and fallen-ness that I saw in him. Vulgar, pathetic, a horrid fetish, but also unreachably lovely. Attached to him all my ambivalent memory.

XIX We should think about the defacing and mutilating of dolls, especially B******, who seems to arouse the most hostile impulses in her subjects (cf Mary’s "Ken kills hitchhiker B*" games) We never killed or tortured our dolls, and when we mutilated B* it was only in the interests of beauty and love. Pious girls!

One could see doll mutilation as the act of sadistic child-gods, torturing their playthings, and wonder why S and I played god so tenderly. Or one could see in it instead an act of rebellion against god — in which child-worshippers rise up to subdue doll god to their own will (or get out from under its thumb.) B*****, after all, rules an empire much larger than we could even dream of (cf. Perky Pat*) And yet she didn’t rule the doll games. Were we even aware of her power? We had such uncommodified childhoods. Not that there were no brand names, but B***** for example was completely ripped out of her world (no Ken, no wardrobe) and made to fit our private world instead. And since she didn’t fit, we cut off her legs...
Our B***** was easily subdued when she entered doll games, but what if she’d been there from the beginning, calling the shots? What would we have done then? (I like that idea: the goddess arrives late to the world which is supposed to be her domain, and it has already evolved without her in such a way that she appears freakish. Her subjects — with all due respect and piety — have to mutilate her just to make her fit in.)

XX When I began to be aware of people outside Jacksonia (and of my own unpreparedness to enter their culture) I became nostalgic for the elements of other people’s childhoods which belonged to some imaginary America* about which I knew almost nothing, but which I yearned after anyway. I wanted to have a share in this dream world I sensed around me, of superheroes and TV and rock n roll (the elements of the dream world varied, but were distinctly pop cultural) I idealized my friends who had grown up in this world and hoped they would introduce me, a foreigner, to what I had never known... Although I didn’t realize this at the time, this was surely part of my attraction to Philip K Dick: he was completely immersed in pop culture, and utopian about it in a way that captivated my own imagination. He dreamed of communities built around TV sets and spray cans... and I dreamed of it too. Is it because it seemed the opposite of Jacksonian isolation (the community of two, or at most 5)?

...And yet when I look at what I ended up writing about him, I can see that doll games won out after all*. The PKD I wrote about was the most obsessive, solipsistic, lonely PKD, one who very much knew the comfort and terror of being trapped in one’s own private doll game (and my question, although I didn’t think of it this way at the time, was whether his books, his characters, his mad cosmology — his doll games — were an escape or a trap...)

XXI S: "All activity is ennobled by obsessiveness*."

XXII Genius girls*: we never worried about the doll games’ status as art, or applied standards of seriousness or importance to them — or to our roles as "authors" — even though we were trying to fashion ourselves into artists and writers at the same time the doll games were going on, diligently practicing in our sketchbooks and journals for future greatness. We thought of ourselves as genius-authors in training, and even put our literary aspirations onstage in the doll games via "creative writing class", but we didn’t feel the need to elevate doll games themselves to any higher status. They were strictly low culture.

....And yet there is some commonality, or complicity, between our pursuit of greatness and the doll games.... Both arose out of our peculiarly isolated childhood...heated up in the crucible of the family and the fantasy land of Berkeley* (a fantasy to us, anyway) and both furthered that isolation — deepened and elaborated it.

XXIII To me the doll games now seem full of mystery and possibility partly because they represent an alternate model of creation to "great authorship." Notice that both S and I have been pursuing such alternatives in our post doll games lives. I never thought about this before, but maybe my interest in those alternatives stems from my blissful experience of co-authoring as a child. Maybe I wish it could all be doll games. I’m yearning for some golden age when I didn’t have to play all by myself...seeking new non-lonely modes of authorship. Great author as a fallen condition*.

XXIV Freud on Leonardo and his overdeveloped "play instinct": "...but its long duration can teach us how slowly anyone tears himself from his childhood if in his childhood days he has enjoyed the highest erotic bliss*, which is never again attained."

XXV The primal scene (copied from Freud notes*): we have for example father, mother and child/voyeur. With fantasy one identifies with a place in this whole structure of desiring relationships. There is a visual staging of elements; a field is laid out in which one sees oneself. For Freud this is what constitutes us as selves as well as determining our fantasies: we must see ourselves in a structure of relations in order to grasp ourselves as separate beings. Thus fantasy is essential both for desire (we desire along the lines of force within the scene...the whole charged field of looking and wanting and fucking and being...) and for identity, our sense of what position(s) to take in this field. Freud says we return to the same templates of fantasy again and again — in life as well as in doll games. This would explain the repetition of our games: in staging scenes with good girls and bad girls and manly men and seducers and matrons and voyeurs we were minting again our fantasy templates, finding ourselves and our pleasures in them over and over again. Why replay the same scenes? We’ll be doing that our whole lives, according to Freud. That’s all we will ever want....

For F, it’s actually this whole field of relations that we identify with, in the end — not just one position (because it is the entire charged structure, and our visual grasp of it, that fixes us in our place) So we are not only Aina and Laurie but also Harvey and Matron...both mommy, daddy and the voyeur...

XXVI If one’s desire is trained in one’s early years in relation to family and other primal scenes and characters...then where do the doll games fit in? Must see them as somehow both rehearsing the original "family romance"...reconvening it or perhaps hosting it with new props and furniture...and as their own romance*: between S. and I and between us and the dolls.

XXVII I still wonder what games I would have come up with by myself — it’s a lost alternate reality, the independent fantasy life of PJ — but how different could it have been? the doll games displayed such textbook perversity! What the games did, thanks to S’s willful, brazen approach to satisfying her own desires, was make our fantasy life concrete, invest it in objects, pieces of writing, shared play. Without that, the whole realm might be lost to us, forgotten, like any secret internal fantasy life I might have had is lost to me...

XXVIII Harvey, again: For me childhood may be most pleasurably accessed through the fallen object*, which not only seems more interesting but is also not associated with any lost hopes and yearnings. Nostalgia for lost innocence is not a possible stance toward Harvey.. He reminds me that I was always clever, instead of that I was once innocent and am now clever (an idea which always fills me with ambivalence).

XXIX Of course what Harvey means to us now may not be what he meant then*. How we embrace him, while we spurn our own Mara and Melanie who once spurned him!

XXX Harvey stands for the exuberance of our own desires (discreetly buried in the chilly bodies of Mara and Melanie) His inability to see or contain his own grotesquery makes him madly bold, true to himself. Dream big! Dream stupid! Dream nasty! says Harvey... I love that. His character simply cannot keep the truth from surging forth: that boobies and fierce fucking underlie the gossamer dreams of the lover and the poet... This truth was inadmissible for the M and Ms of the doll games...

XXXI Harvey has red hair and a mustache! He is the father!!!!*

XXXII If we played doll games now I would let him get the girl*. I would.

XXXIII Writing is so much worse than doll games.