Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"I am a thing without a proper name," it pronounced...

"I am a wound in the flank of the world. " 
( "Human Remains," by Clive Barker)

Clive Barker is ten years older than me, and I've read so many of his stories and compared them against the work of other writers, that I've declared him to be my favorite writer. While I've never aspired to BE exactly like Barker, I do hope that one day I will produce a piece of work that reads with the fluidity and animalistic self assurance that he so flawlessly exudes.

I'd be interested to know when CB wrote this short story. It seems like a much later piece. (Shades of Imajica.) I've read Barker's ideological struggles on Twitter in the past, his musings over male on male relationships and so on and I noticed a couple of years ago his Twitter messages were much like what is in this short story.

I love that Barker created a new monster with this piece. Two new monsters really, and he does an excellent job of highlighting a few of the monsters we see every day. In some ways, the monster he creates is similar to the vampire and in other ways vastly different. I was immediately drawn into the beginning of the story of the young good-looking 'bumboy' and his material ambitions. Barker is a master craftsman of language. He teases the worst terrors imaginable from his brain and sets them down like a bear-trap on a waiting page, and then before you know it the steel jaws of his concocted nightmares spring up and grab you in a merciless death-shake. Amazing.

The main character, Gavin, is an odd protagonist. He is a nocturnal human making a living off of selling his body for other people's pleasure. I never really 'liked' him in the story, and I didn't ever feel sorry for him, even when he suffered at the goon hands of Preetorias (I'm guessing an adapted word-form of the Praetorian: a Roman bodyguard). It only took one slip-up of the night, one poor miscalculation of a pickup, and Gavin is led to the ending thread of his old life and ushered into a bizarre and twisted world of the new. The beautiful man who once used his looks to get what he needed/wanted out of life suddenly loses his physical perfection, his one claim to fame and perhaps he truly loses his soul. Perhaps he loses it to a spirit once encased (or created) inside an ancient artifact. Or maybe it's simply an exchange of the heart.

There's not a lot I can say that would do justice to this story. I loved the innuendos, and the subtle meanings woven throughout this piece. And the macabre play on words was priceless. Christian. Not Christian. Crime of Fashion. Barker's prose holds disturbingly endearing and dementedly engrossing passages woven into a short story filled with prickly precision and an 'in your face' punch. All of it revealed under the flicker of a golden light jumping up from the flame of a well-timed match. Which reminds me to say that this story brought my thoughts back to the famous lines in Macbeth:

"Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more." (~Macbeth. Shakespeare)

And Barker's tale reaches out and brings death to our door, unveiling the Reaper who always wants more...

~Factum Est


  1. BRAVO, CIN.

    I agree with you. Apparently, this story was written towards the end of the whole Books of Blood thing, when his interest in traditional horror flagged. It definitely shows. It's more transgressive.

  2. I also felt that this was more like his later work, more an examination of the fantastic than horror. I did like how Gavin, who was so obsessed with his appearance, has it taken from him. But I didn't really feel like he cared overly much that it was happening. I wanted to see more outrage, more emotion of some kind. If not outrage, a realization that he is more than just his appearance. I felt let down by this story. It felt detached. While Gavin and the creature were interesting on the surface, I never felt like Barker made me really care about them.

    1. I'm not sure I agree with you about Gavin having a more intense emotional reaction to what was happening. I also felt detached from the story, but that reaction supports the idea that Gavin is simply an emotionless sculpture and foreshadows the end. Throughout the story, Gavin expresses hardly any emotion. As a result, the final scene is more powerful since the monster is sobbing over Gavin's father's grave while Gavin is not upset. I thought a possible message could have been that the monster would be a better "person" since he realized that emotion and loss are more important than physical beauty.

  3. I think it's more frightening that he DIDN'T (dang, wish I could italicize) care about the transition. His lack of emotion regarding the loss of the only thing he loved, shows how much humanity he's lost.

    And Cin, I LOVE the Macbeth reference. Only you could mix Shakespeare and Barker!

  4. I could only suppose Gavin's will to care for the loss of the face he'd loved so much was taken from him by the creature along with his face. It strikes me as strange, thinking back, but at the time it read true.

    And I agree wholeheartedly about Barker's use of language. He can string words together with true elegance, no matter how macabre the subject matter, it seems.

  5. It's definitely a different work after what he wrote before, I guess it was a bit of a 'breath of fresh air' work where he needed a break from the traditional stuff. This story is so very nontraditional, but it's also rather liberating as a result.