Poems, stories, and fantasies featuring the queen of American dolls that, all together, pack more of a punch than one might expect--a funny, irreverent, and sometimes shocking look at Barbie's function as national icon. She was stripped, decapitated, and buried alive. She was thrown against the wall in temper-tantrum sessions, mashed and twisted during bouts of masturbation, fearfully studied for long, angst-filled moments of teenaged sexual confusion. In this wide- ranging group of meditations on America's favorite plastic blond, the difference between real people and the super-artificial ideal stands out in stark, funny relief, and Barbie's serenely smiling silence plays effectively against the authors' hurried, confessional prose. In ``A Real Doll,'' A.M. Homes tells of a young boy who ``dated'' his sister's Barbie, stealing her from her place beside dorky Ken on his sister's dresser, muttering erotic phrases in her ear, then abruptly dumping her when she grew unattractively lusty. An excerpt from Kathryn Harrison's novel Thicker Than Water describes a young girl's tour of a Mattel toy factory, where enormous black women jam and twist thousands of Barbie heads onto plastic necks before tossing them onto a conveyor belt. ``Twelve- Step Barbie,'' by Richard Grayson, evokes a middle-aged, post- success Barbie trying to make it through a spirit-deadening day. In Denise Duhamel's poem ``Kinky,'' Barbie and Ken play at switching sex roles and clothes. And in Julia Alvarez's ``Floor Show,'' one of the more memorable stories here, the young daughter of political refugees slyly expresses her rage and resentment through a lovely, newly purchased doll. Remarkable for its emphasis on sexual experimentation, homosexuality, dysfunctional family situations, and other so-called ``deviant'' environments, the collection cleverly plays up, via selection as well as substance, Barbie's bizarre, surreally ``perfect'' presence in a wildly nonconforming world. More intriguing than it might have been--an unusually entertaining collection.