Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Thou shalt not lay palm...

...upon thy victims." (The Law. Yattering and Jack by Clive Barker)

This tale was a fun short story that reminded me a lot of "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis. It is a fairly old story of the demon who fights to turn an innocent man into a corrupt soul. Barker's approach was a bit different since "The Lord of the Flies" wanted Jack's soul in payment for his mother reneging on a promise to be his and going to heaven instead. I read Clive Barker's commentary on the story, which became an episode adapted for the Television series, "Tales from the Darkside."

Despite the gross visuals of cat deaths, particularly Freddy the III, this story was oddly funny for a Barker piece. And later (as a vegetarian) the Christmas turkey, oozing stuffing, dancing in the kitchen, was a disturbing mix of dark comedy and grim food distortion. I'm not sure I'll ever see Christmas dinner the same way again.

As in Barker's short-story Rawhead Rex, the point of view of characters shifted often, although in this piece there was a protagonist and a main story theme. And similar to Rawhead, I didn't mind the shifts. Didn't bother me a bit. I also liked getting into the head of the Yattering demon, hearing his thoughts and suffering his angry frustrations at Jack.

I found it interesting that Jack thought of Yattering's abuses as an overall 'game'. From the kitty deaths to the spinning Christmas tree, and his daughter's injuries from pine-needles and multiple spinning flying objects in the house... at the end of it all Jack keeps his composure (for the most part) and seems to know just what to do to drive the Yattering to its maddening edge. He pushed the beastie past its point of binding law. And having crossed the line by laying hands on the human, the Yattering suddenly belongs to Jack . A demon held in abeyance by a gentle soul. 
"Che sera, sera."


  1. I noticed that there was a lot of POV shifts as well; however it didn’t bother me in this story like it did in “Rawhead Rex.” I think it is because there is a strong protagonist presented as you pointed out. I think that it also works because the shifts are mainly between the Yattering and Jack and the reader is able to easily distinguish whose head they are in at the moment. I think that without a take on the Yattering’s thoughts, the story wouldn’t have worked as well.

  2. I liked it. It was funny, but stop hating on "Rawhead Rex." THAT story kicked ass, not this one. This one was entertaining, and far from Barker's best ("Body Politic").

  3. I didn't find the POV shifts as troublesome as "Rawhead Rex" either. And it was important to get inside the Yattering's head to build his frustration and humanize him more, to the point where he contrasts Jack's character. There were a few points where I tripped over the shifts, but for the most part, this story read more easily for me.

    I appreciated the perspective of this battle being a game. Technically, Jack couldn't be harmed and he couldn't harm the Yattering, so (besides the cats) this was like an anything goes reverse game of tag. Who's going to be it without touching the other? Or it's like kids yelling, "I'm not touching you!" I think if the Yattering's actions were more horrific, if he could touch Jack, my perspective of this story being a game would be altered. Maybe it'd still be a game, but a twisted one that's not really a game if that makes sense.

  4. Thanks everyone, for stopping by. :) (Chris, I wasn't hating on Rawhead. I liked Rawhead actually, and loved how Barker broke almost every writing rule when he created the story and it still rocked!) The Yattering was a different tale for Barker. Quite a surprise from the writer of The Hellbound Heart. I've got more Barker to read in my future. Weaveworld sits on my shelf and beacons!

  5. I noticed the POV shifts as well (as I mentioned in my blog post). Like others, I didn't have as much of an issue with them, mostly because we were only dealing with two characters. I did have a problem with Jack, as he appeared a pretty heartless creature. It reminded me of the story of Lot, who lost everything. We are meant to feel good because the person won in the end. In both stories, their families have been horribly affected, in Lot's case they are dead. It's all well and good that Jack and Lot got what they wanted, but the collateral damage is pretty hefty. In that sense, would this story really be a case of a Pyrrhic victory?

  6. Yeah, I couldn't stand the sudden head-hopping, however, like you, I enjoyed the story when it was inside of the Yattering.
    I didn't think of Screwtape Letters when I was reading it, but now that I read you had on your blog it makes sense. They're very similar and both fail in the end. Interesting point.