(Clive Barker, Books of Blood: Rawhead Rex. 1998
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I have a bias toward Clive Barker. He's a mastermind writer that can do no wrong in my warped opinion (Let us not talk of 'Abarat', for that would be a lengthy discussion...)
Clive Barker has a unique penchant for story telling, and Rawhead Rex highlights his talent beautifully.
( I wanted to see the film for comparison, but the DVD on Amazon it sells for $94.99 used. That's right. $94.99. Used. Needless to say, I didn't pay to see it.)
Still, what an excellent story! I grew up on a farm and so I empathized with the trials and tribulations of the first character, Thomas. This was a man who found rocks, boulders and other soil impediments in the good earth and cleared them away with the (hopeful) goal of planting fruitful seed. As I read, I felt Thomas Garrow's desire to get this huge rock out of the fertile soil bed. His persistence won out over the troublesome boulder. Alas, persistence does not solely reap rewards. Thomas found that out first hand.
The POV switch Barker inserted as Rawhead rose from his prison, was spectacular. I felt as if I WERE Rawhead, smelling the sky...drinking in a world of sensations I'd been deprived of for eons. Then I was Thomas again, bewildered, amazed... then dropped on my head... dead.
Barker does some things in this piece that writers are told never to do in a story (short or long). He switches POV often, and he introduces multiple characters who have little in common except the thread of their existence in the town of Zeal. All of those things, and he uses the word grimace (or a form of it) at least four times in the short story (OMG: What would author Tim Esaias say? There are no gargoyles in this prose. SHU'ers you know what I'm talkin 'bout.) A sin in writing, for those of us taught by those who are great.
Regardless of the grimaces, and Barker doing all of the things we are taught NOT to do as new writers...he is the master of the macabre. His language, his 'page turner' ensemble of words is fantastical. I couldn't help but love each grossly detailed, sickening and twisted moment. Clive Barker is, perhaps, the best (non-personal) writing instructor I've ever had. His is the work I study. His is the prose I most want to capture the idealism behind. He is frank, honest, visual and forthright. He is the mixed martial artist of the writer's arena, practicing with no holds barred. An aberration of the mat, and an opponent never to take for granted. If I were in front of him, I would bow low but I would never, never take my eyes off of him.
Did I find it hard to believe that the 'Venus of Willendorf' was the arch-enemy, the nemesis of Rawhead Rex? It was a bit of a stretch, but the story played on ancient history, and I loved the gender battle. In addition to the story-line, Barker wracked the limits of human endurance in the reader. An innocent young girl dies, and an intellectual boy (writers might feel for because of his introverted self) dies as well. Granted we don't have enough time to fall in love with the boy too much...still...he was only a child), and we get to see the perspective of Rawhead as he revels in his own renewed greatness. He is God once more. We feel the beast's thirst, we hunger for dominance, we understand the confusion of a different world that meets us after centuries of burial in a prison in the ground. The world is strange. It has changed. And even with the last breath (and final urination), we are convinced that Rawhead's reign has not ended. That he will be back. As the female energy is omnipresent, so is the male, and like a male organ gone temporarily flaccid Rawhead Rex will rise again. All he needs is time.
Rawhead Rex Poster
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